United Rugby Championship: Five takeaways from Stormers v Connacht as the defending champions storm into the final

·4-min read
Stormers Damian Willemse with ball in hand against Connacht Credit: Alamy
Stormers Damian Willemse with ball in hand against Connacht Credit: Alamy

Following the Stormers’ 43-25 United Rugby Championship (URC) semi-final victory over Connacht, Planet Rugby picks out five takeaways from the action.

Champion mentality steers Stormers into the final

It was not the start the Stormers would have hoped for, as they were littered with errors in a nervy opening 10-15 minutes. Part of that is owed to the brilliant opening from the visitors, who came out of the blocks well.

However, as champions do, they absorbed the pressure and responded ruthlessly with three quick-fire tries from all over the field. From then on they settled into their rhythm on defence in particular and had things under control for the most part.

In the second half Connacht had a period where they were pulling themselves back into the game with a Shamus Hurley-Langton try, but again, the Stormers responded almost immediately with a try through Paul de Wet to take the lead beyond seven.

The champions were just that in this game as they showed outstanding resilience to hold on to the result.

Jack Carty sinks, Manie Libbok soars

The two fly-halves have been crucial to their sides’ success throughout the season, and their performances today unsurprisingly had a huge impact on the final result.

Carty started the better of the pair, but as the game went on, it was Libbok who stole the show.

The Connacht captain threw a wonderful pass out to Mack Hansen for the winger to score and produced some superb kicks in open play, but his softer moments really hurt his side. Twice, he failed to find touch with his penalty kicks, while he could have done far better on his attempted tackle on Angelo Davids in the build-up to Libbok’s first try. Before the break, he also made the mistake of not attempting to take his conversion quickly after the wind blew it off the tee.

After a shaky start, including a knock-on close his line, Libbok bounced back to produce a masterclass that booked the Stormers a place in the final. For the second week in a row, Libbok showed off his big match temperament, which will do his Springbok aspirations a world of good. He got the ball rolling with a sublime cross-kick to Davids, then perfectly rounded off two tries with clever support lines, the second also set up from his brilliance in the 22.

Lineout struggles could hurt Stormers

The Stormers may have marched into the final with what ended up being a healthy scoreline, but there will be massive concerns over the functionality of their line-out that struggled against Connacht with only six from nine won.

Sure there were windy conditions but Joseph Dweba’s throwing was not where it should be, and neither was JJ Kotze’s, who also missed his mark once when he was subbed on. If the throwing was good the co-ordination in the line-out was not.

Springbok Marvin Orie was sorely missed as the line-out is his expertise. Munster will be able to punish the Capetonians much more than Connacht did for the poor set-piece in the final on May 27.

It is food for thought and a serious work on for John Dobson and his side this week.

Gutsy Connacht fought to the end

The scoreline suggested a comfortable win for the Stormers but that was not the case as Connacht refused to go away all game long.

The Irish side started the game brilliantly and had the champions on the back foot. Even though the Stormers got ahead with their quick tries, Connacht always stayed within touching distance.

The last 10 minutes were nervy for the Stormers as Connacht managed to get themselves within the seven-point range until De Wet’s try.

It was not to be for the Galway men who can be proud of their efforts in what was a successful campaign.

Andy Friend’s legacy

The loss marks the end of Friend’s five-year stint at Connacht and what a five years it has been for the Australian.

His team have always played to their strengths, and he has been capable of getting the most out of his squad and has been an astute recruiter, with Hansen and Hurley-Langton being two key examples.

There have been extreme highs for Connacht under his tutelage, including a first win over Ulster in Belfast for 58 years and a first victory against Leinster in Dublin in 18. The Galway side also reached the knockout stages of the Champions Cup for the first time and came close to a remarkable URC final this season too.

READ MORE: United Rugby Championship: Manie Libbok stars again as Stormers beat Connacht to book final spot

The article United Rugby Championship: Five takeaways from Stormers v Connacht as the defending champions storm into the final appeared first on Planetrugby.com.