Noakes boots Blues to tight win
Having been on the end of a penalty goal defeat by the Reds last week, the Blues had a penalty goal win of their own when first five-eighths Chris Noakes kicked a record six goals to give his side an 18-17 win over the Stormers at North Harbour Stadium in Albany.
Having been behind through the first three-quarters of the game, the Stormers at last closed the gap with a 64th minute try to captain and second five-eighths Jean de Villiers. It followed a frustrating period for the Stormers who couldn't win any rub of the green from referee Glen Jackson.
But with ball secure in the Blues 22m area the ball was moved wide and centre Juan de Jongh, who had been outstanding in the midfield all night, hit the ball at speed and opened up the defence. He was grounded just short of the line but in the resulting ruck ball saw de Villiers over with Johan Pieterson landing the conversion to pull the score back to 15-10.
Noakes had two chances to put the Blues beyond the seven-point margin and was successful in the 72nd minute. His sixth penalty goal was the highest number of penalty goals kicked by an individual in Blues history.
De Villiers was at it again when from a set-piece play de Villiers swept past centre Francis Saili, not for the first time on the night, and was able to head the chasing defence to score for Pietersen's conversion to pull the margin back to one point.
The Stormers applied scrum pressure on a Blues feed and created the turnover to set up a final chance when the Blues knocked on. For three minutes 59 seconds the Stormers rolled and rumbled the ball, but tenacious defence, and a refusal to conceded a penalty saw the Stormers finally resort to a dropped goal attempt.
However, replacement five-eighths Elton Jantjies fluffed the kick and the Blues had their win.
The Blues used the tactical option of the short kick, both in the air and along the ground, to cause the Stormers defenders to have to turn quickly and chase, and in most instances it proved an effective choice.
The Stormers made two first quarter breaks, each of which could have led to tries. Second five-eighths Jean de Villiers broke through and linked with first five-eighths Gary van Aswegen who had looped around. However, when he threw a link pass inside it was taken by a leaping Blues wing Frank Halai to kill the move.
Then after the Blues had gone ahead 6-0 from penalty goals to first five-eighths Chris Noakes a superb break by Stormers fullback Johan Pietersen created space on the outside for wing Gio Aplon. He made ground then cut back inside but was taken in a tackle, which was ruled illegal, by wing Rene Ranger.
Advantage was played and on the left flank it was lock Andries Bekker who stretched for the line but was ruled, by the television referee, to have grounded the ball just short.
After Blues hooker Keven Mealamu was forced to leave the field with a calf injury, the Stormers won a penalty handy to the posts but they opted to kick for a five-metre lineout. However, they were undone by solid Blues defence and the maul never got a roll on and in midfield the ball was lost and the Blues cleared their line.
Four minutes later it was a case of lesson learned when they opted for a penalty shot from 40m out, but Pietersen swung the ball to the left of the posts. But in another penalty Pietersen failed to find touch and Halai kneed the ball in and from the resulting breakout the Blues were awarded a penalty which Noakes converted in the 33rd minute.
After Noackes kicked two more penalty goals in the 42nd and 49th minutes, the Blues had cause to share the frustration Bekker felt when denied a try, when replacement hooker Quentin MacDonald took a return from a lineout throw to charge 4.95m to the line only to have his try disallowed by the television official.
Blues 18 (Chris Noakes 6 pen) Stormers 17 (Jean de Villiers 2 tries, Johan Pietersen 2 con, pen ).HT: 9-3