The DHL Stormers will have every right to question the penalty try that was awarded against them off the final move of the game to snuff out their hopes of victory. In reality, though, they only have themselves to blame for losing 25-15 to the Brumbies in Canberra on Saturday.
Skipper Jean de Villiers summed it up when he said in the post-match interview that his men lacked composure when it mattered. It is a fact that for the second successive week they fought their way back into close to a winning position only to gift it to the opposition with poor decision-making.
Not that it should just be the chip kick, put in when running out from inside their 22 having just scored the try that drew them to within three points of the Brumbies (18-15), that they should focus on in the wash-up.
Although it was the second successive week they have conceded a score by putting in a chip at that stage, it was probably the howler from Kobus van Wyk that let Robbie Coleman in for his second try for the Brumbies that really cost them.
At that stage the Stormers were only behind by three points in what had developed into a real arm-wrestle. The Stormers had enjoyed some opportunities as both sides took turns to gain momentum.
With not much more than a quarter of an hour remaining, they were succeeding in their objective of ensuring they would be in a position to win it at the death.
However a high kick was not caught by Van Wyk, who overran it, and then Brumbies skipper Ben Mowen hoofed the ball down towards the left corner. It looked as though the ball was going out, and Van Wyk probably thought so too, for as he dropped back in the chase he held off the ball and let it roll rather than pick it up as he should have.
Perhaps he was unaware of Coleman bearing down on him, but it was an elementary error, and the Stormers paid dearly for it as the Brumbies player picked up the ball and then wedged it down millimetres in from touch.
Nic White, as he had done with three previous kicks, was wayward with the conversion, but with an eight-point lead the Brumbies were in a much better position than they might have been.
Both teams missed crucial kicks on the night, with Stormers flyhalf Peter Grant missing an easily kickable penalty seven minutes from time, as well as a similar one early in the first half.
Grant also missed the conversion of Juan de Jongh’s try with less than five minutes to go. Again it was one that he should have slotted as it was from almost in front. It was a more crucial miss than many may realise as it meant that the Stormers still had to score a try to win it rather than just the penalty they would have needed had Grant kicked it.
Perhaps that knowledge inspired the lack of composure that De Villiers referred to. To be fair to Gio Aplon, who was responsible for the chip kick that the Brumbies intercepted to force the Stormers to play the last minutes on defence, there was a great breakout by the Stormers from their own tryline that had been inspired by De Jongh and Aplon before that.
There were many areas where the Stormers let themselves down in the second half, such as having a line-out called skew in an attacking position, having another poached, and then the scrum, which had been impressive earlier in the game, just fell apart later on.
Referee Glen Jackson has to be questioned for awarding the penalty try in the last minute. Yes, the Stormers stood up in the face of the Brumbies onslaught, but could he be sure that a push-over try was on the cards?
Even the Brumbies looked surprised by the decision, with several of them being confused and appearing to think that only a penalty had been awarded.
Otherwise Jackson had a fair game, and the Stormers couldn’t really argue against one of the earlier momentum shifts that was caused by Tiaan Liebenberg being yellow carded.
Jacskon called on the TMO to play a replay of an incident where Liebenberg pushed a Brumbies player through the horizontal in a tackle. There wasn’t any malice to it, but technically Jackson was obliged to make the call and send Liebenberg for a 10 minute breather.
It came in the crucial period, just 10 minutes before half-time. The Stormers were leading 10-7 when Liebenberg went to the bin after a well-worked try to Duane Vermeulen off a driving maul had cancelled out Coleman’s try in the eighth minute. That had come courtesy of a brilliant break inside Jean de Villiers by Brumbies flyhalf Matt Toomua.
The pressure they were forced to play under when down to 14 men saw the Stormers under the kosh in that period before half-time, and the Brumbies capitalised on it by kicking two penalties through White that ensured they enjoyed a 13-10 lead at the break.
The Stormers had enjoyed the better of the first half against a Brumbies team that looked like it might be feeling the effects of the bruiser against the Waratahs the previous week, so they really shouldn’t have been trailing.
The Stormers lost the influential figure of Schalk Burger before kick-off with a quadricep injury, which apparently has ensured he will be flying back to South Africa on Sunday and force him to miss the final match of the tour against the Reds in Brisbane next week.
It was yet another game the Stormers could have won, but once again they made crucial errors that cost them. Their most incisive attacking rugby was played once they had fallen behind by more than a score, as was the case last week. That, and the tendency for the backs to line up too deep on attack, is something that needs to be addressed before next week.
So too the line-outs, where the Stormers were clearly feeling the effects of being down to their sixth lock pairing. That's an area where failure prevented the Stormers from sustaining the pressure on the Brumbies.
Brumbies- Tries: Robbie Coleman(2), penalty try. Conversions: Nic White(2). Penalties:
Stormers - Tries: Duane Vermeulen, Juan de Jongh. Conversions: Peter Grant.Penalties: Peter Grant