Stormers survive tremendous Connacht fight-back to reach URC Final
STORMERS 43-25 CONNACHT
Manie Libbok scored 23 points, including two tries, as Stormers beat Connacht in Cape Town to reach the United Rugby Championship final, for the second season in a row.
Connacht started the better of the two sides and took an early lead through a Jack Carty penalty. Soon after, Mack Hansen scored a superb, one-handed try in the corner.
Carty missed the touchline conversion so it was only 8-0, and it soon got better for the hosts. Manie Libbok was to the fore as a kick through teed up Angelo Davids for a try that, when converted, reduced the arrears to a point.
Libbok then took over with a penalty and two tries for Stormers, as the reigning champions streaked ahead 24-8. Connacht flung themselves a life-line before the break when Tom Farrell made a 60-yard line break, Denis Buckley disguised a pass well and Conor Oliver crashed over.
Then, an odd moment and one that had fans poring over the rugby laws.
Jack Carty was lining up what would be a relatively simple conversion, just to the left of the posts. As he started his run-up to take his kick, the ball fell from the tee, leading referee Mike Adamson to cry, "You've started your run-up!"
Angelo Davids was alive to the opening and ran up to grab the ball from Carty, thus ending the half. The law states that the kicker must carry on with their kick, from a conversion, if the ball does fall from the tee, after run-up has commenced. Had it been a Connacht penalty, Carty would have been allowed to replace the ball on the kicking tee.
As it was, Connacht's players were left cribbing with Adamson as the half-time whistle sounded. Two easy points had been lost.
Connacht show second half fight
Those two points left behind in the first half had an impact on a big Connacht call in the 54th minute. Mike Adamson awarded them a penalty some 30 metres out.
Had Connacht been 24-15 behind, a successful penalty would have made it a one-score game. As it was, the Westerners felt they needed to eat into that 11-point deficit and kicked that penalty to touch for an attacking lineout.
After camping out in the Stormers 22 for five minutes, that gamble paid off as Shamus Hurley-Langton, with Cian Prendergast latched behind, bulled over from close range. Jack Carty landed that conversion and it was 24-20 to the hosts with 20 minutes to go.
There was some Connacht consternation that Damian Willemse was not yellow-carded when he collided with an airborne Carty. They settled for a penalty but lost possession and a lightning Stormers attack resulted in Paul de Wet racing over for their fourth try, stretching the South African's lead to 31-20.
John Porch kicked a sublime 50:22 to put Stormers under the pump and, off the attacking lineout, went wide, with Mack Hansen setting up Byron Ralston to score in the corner.
Tom Daly missed his conversion then shelled a high ball, with Kieran Marmion unable to touch the bouncing ball as he would have been offside. That led to Hacjivah Dayimani offloading to Marcel Theunissen for the killer try.
Dayimani then found time to dish another sensational offload to tee up Ruhan Nel for the exclamation point try.
OUR MAN OF THE MATCH: Manie Libbok (Stormers)
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