URCMatch Report

Stormers end Leinster’s perfect 19-match winning run with draw at the RDS

Second string Leinster side draw with the champions and ensure they will again finish first at the end of the regular season

Leinster 22 Stormers 22

There were, broadly speaking, two ways of looking at this. Leinster’s perfect 19-match winning run came to an end, and at home, but against that, their second string side held the champions, and outscored them by four tries to three. They extended their lead atop the URC table and ensured they will again finish first at the end of the regular season.

Accordingly, sections of the crowd remained to cheer the home team on a lap of the pitch for what was their last game of the regular season at the RDS. All in all then, a satisfactory night’s work, especially considering they also trailed 17-0 heading toward half-time.

The combined effect of last week’s Grand Slam and the visit of the champions generated a buzz around Ballsbridge on a blustery, at times showery, night, and what followed was an entertaining game which fluctuated wildly.


The Leinster frontrow and pack held up well against the more experienced Stormers forwards, Michael Milne and John McKee having fine games, and Leinster withstood the Stormers’ amalgam of power, offloading at pace to stay in the fight throughout. While the pack were indebted to the savvy of Ross Molony and Rhys Ruddock. Harry Byrne kicked superbly out of hand in using the second half elements, albeit he’ll rue missing three difficult conversions and one penalty to win the game.

Ciaran Frawley had some touches of class, and both Liam Turner and Rob Russell also showed up well.

The reigning champions welcomed back a Springboks quartet of Steven Kitshoff, Frans Malherbe, Marvin Orie and Damian Willemse, and were quick off the mark. A stolen first throw forced Leinster into the first of two extended defensive sets, ending with relief after the Stormers opted for a penalty after a high tackle by Milne on Manie Libbok.

Even more curiously Libbok then opted for a drop goal, which he skewed wide, before Leinster finally cracked under remorseless pressure, Libbok showing and stepping first Liam Turner and then Scott Penny to score under the posts.

Libbok was heavily involved, his wind-assisted clearance from the 22 drifting inexorably beyond the Leinster dead ball line, which highlighted the strength of the wind behind them in the first-half. But the Stormers’ outhalf was soon availing of a loose pass by Luke McGrath, which went above Frawley’s right shoulder and through his hands, by beating Turner to the bouncing ball on his own 22.

Chased down by Jordan Larmour, he had Willemse on hand to finish before applying the conversion for a 17-0 lead.

Leinster badly needed something before the interval and after a clever carry and kick by Frawley, the Stormers completely botched a short lineout close to their own line. Three successive penalties and a penalty advantage later, Leinster’s siege was rewarded when Milne scored with a strong finish.

Although Byrne’s conversion was blown off course, there was encouragement in that too before the teams turned around.

Sure enough, Paul de Wet’s first box kick of the second half was held up almost horizontally by the wind, and after Byrne found touch within five metres from a penalty on halfway. From Molony’s take, the Leinster pack wheeled to the front, and Penny broke free to dive over in inimitable style.

Byrne located another brilliant 50/22 only for Kitshoff to pick off the short throw and release Hacjivah Dayimani. He was chased down by Liam Turner and Frawley made the follow up tackle on Suleiman Hartzenberg. The Stormers lock was fortunate not to be punished for launching himself at Rob Russell’s back as he latched over the ball, and the referee should have called the penalty for holding on sooner.

In any event, Clayton Blommetjies couldn’t gather a kick downfield by Byrne, with Turner first on to the ball and after a carry by John McKee, Milne’s fine pass was finished in the corner by Rob Russell, which again didn’t help Byrne with the conversion.

After a Deegan block down, quick as a flash Byrne negotiated another 50/22, and when Hartzenberg came in off his wing to bring the maul down he was binned. McKee tapped and from the recycle Deegan powered over, and away enough from the touchline for Byrne to convert.

But the Stormers weren’t done, their strength in the scrums growing after the raft of replacements left Leinster looking a little callow, and Blommetjies scored off Libbok’s lovely grubber to draw the sides level, although he too couldn’t land the difficult conversion into the wind.

Byrne had a chance to nudge Leinster in front entering the last three minutes, but his 35 metre penalty hit the upright.

The Stormers were last to threaten, but from a wild night’s final turnover, Byrne kicked the ball dead inside his own 22 to settle for the draw. It was an honourable one too.

Scoring sequence – 8 mins: Libbok pen 0-3; 21 mins: Nibbok try and con 0-10; 33 mins: Willemse try, Nibbok con 0-17; 40 mins: Milne try 5-17; (half-time 5-17); 43 mins: Penny try 10-17; 54 mins: Russell try 15-17; 60 mins: Deegan try, Byrne con 22-17; 69 mins: Blommetjies try 22-22.

LEINSTER: Jordan Larmour; Rob Russell, Liam Turner, Ciarán Frawley, Dave Kearney; Harry Byrne, Luke McGrath; Michael Milne, John McKee, Michael Ala’alatoa; Ross Molony, Jason Jenkins; Rhys Ruddock (capt), Scott Penny, Max Deegan.

Replacements: Lee Barron for McKee, Ed Byrne for Milne, Vakhtang Abdaladze for Ala? alatoa, Will Connors for Ruddock (all 62 mins), Brian Deeny for Jenkins, Nick McCarthy for McGrath (both 69 mins).

STORMERS: Clayton Blommetjies; Suleiman Hartzenberg, Dan du Plessis, Damian Willemse, Seabelo Senatla; Manie Libbok, Paul de Wet; Steven Kitshoff (capt), Joseph Dweba, Frans Malherbe; Ruben van Heerden, Marvin Orie; Deon Fourie, Ben-Jason Dixon, Hacjivah Dayimani.

Replacements: Neethling Fouche for Malherbe, Herschel Jantjies for de Wet (both 55 mins), Willie Engelbrecht for Dixon (61 mins), JJ Kotze for Dweba, Brok Harris for Kitshoff (both 62 mins), Marcel Theunissen for Fourie (64 mins), Ernst van Rhyn for Orie, Jean-Luc du Plessis for Hartzenberg (both 73 mins).

Referee: Sam Grove-White (SRU)

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley is Rugby Correspondent of The Irish Times