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Mack Hansen carrying the ball for Connacht. Steve Haag Sports/Thinus Maritz/INPHO

Defending champions Stormers outclass gutsy Connacht to return to URC final

Andy Friend’s side fought all the way to the end in Cape Town.

Stormers 43 
Connacht 25 

Jon Cardinelli reports from the Cape Town Stadium

MANIE LIBBOK CONTRIBUTED 23 points as the Stormers beat Connacht 43-25 on Saturday to secure safe passage to the United Rugby Championship final.

The Stormers came into this clash as favourites due to their exceptional record at the
Cape Town Stadium. Since moving from the iconic Newlands Stadium in 2021, they have lost only two URC matches at this venue – to the Lions in 2021 and to Munster earlier this season.

On the day of the semi-final, some suggested that the extreme winds in the city bowl might favour the visitors more than the hosts. While it would be a stretch to suggest that the Cape Town Stadium was suddenly transformed into the Sportsground, the blustery conditions certainly forced players on both teams to make significant adjustments when kicking or moving the ball.

The Stormers made a series of early kicking and handling mistakes, and were duly punished by Connacht. Jack Carty slotted a penalty from right in front, and kicked well from hand to pin the hosts back in their own territory.

The pressure exerted via a strong set-piece and kicking performance eventually told, with Connacht crossing the line in the 14th minute. Mack Hansen finished the move with a spectacular dive in the left-hand corner.

Less than a minute later, however, the Stormers sparked to life. A pinpoint cross-kick by Libbok was collected by Angelo Davids, and a crowd of 47,000 rose as one to celebrate the home team’s first points of the semi-final.

From there, the Stormers’ forward juggernaut began to gather momentum. And as the hosts grew in confidence, they proceeded to throw more offloads. While some of those passes missed the mark, the ambition and the threat of the Stormers appeared ominous.

Libbok slotted a penalty goal in the 25th minute to give his side the lead for the first time in the contest. Shortly after that, the Stormers took a quick throw-in and launched an audacious counter-attack, which culminated in a try for Libbok under the posts.

The Connacht defence started to crumble, and Libbok added a second try before half time – as well as another clutch conversion. Crucially, Connacht finished the half with a try for Conor Oliver. While the Stormers enjoyed a 24-13 lead at the break, the contest was still very much alive.

That fighting spirit carried Connacht through a challenging start to the second half. After repelling wave after wave of Stormers attack, they made their way down field, and muscled their way over the tryline through Shamus Hurley-Langton.

But the threat of the Stormers materialised once more, after they counter-attacked from their own 22, and then breached Connacht on the outside.

A smart transfer from Leolin Zas to Paul de Wet resulted in the hosts’ fourth try, and Libbok’s conversion gave the Stormers an 11-point buffer with 15 minutes to play.

Connacht continued to press, and earned some reward when replacement Byron Ralston raced down the right-hand touchline to score in the 75th minute. Unfortunately for the
visitors, yet another conversion attempt drifted wide of the posts.

It hardly mattered, though, as the Stormers had the final say. Reserve flank Marcel Theunissen crashed over from close range, and then Hacjivah Dayimani delivered an audacious inside pass to send Ruhan Nel over for the score of the game – much to the crowd’s delight.

Stormers scorers:

Tries: Angelo Davids, Manie Libbok (2), Paul de Wet, Marcel Theunissen, Ruhan Nel
Conversions: Manie Libbok [5 from 6]
Penalties: Manie Libbok [1 from 2]

Connacht scorers:

Tries: Mack Hansen, Conor Oliver, Shamus Hurley-Langton, Byron Ralston
Conversions: Jack Carty [1 from 3], Tom Daly [0 from 1]
Penalties: Jack Carty [1 from 1]

Stormers: Damian Willemse, Angelo Davids, Ruhan Nel, Dan du Plessis, Leolin Zas,
Manie Libbok, Herschel Jantjies; Steven Kitshoff (captain), Joseph Dweba, Frans
Malherbe, Ruben van Heerden, Ben-Jason Dixon, Willie Engelbrecht, Hacjivah Dayimani, Evan Roos.

Connacht: Tiernan O’Halloran, John Porch, Tom Farrell, Bundee Aki, Mack Hansen,
Jack Carty (captain), Caolin Blade, Dennis Buckley, Dave Heffernan, Finlay Bealham, Josh Murphy, Niall Murray, Shamus Hurley-Langton, Conor Oliver, Cian Prendergast.

Referee: Mike Adamson [SRU].

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Written by Jon Cardinelli and posted on


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