Noakes boots Blues to win over Stormers
May 3, 2013
Stormers flyer Bryan Habana is caught by a high shot in the tense match at North Harbour Stadium
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Chris Noakes landed a record six penalties to carry the Blues to a grinding 18-17 Super Rugby win over the frustrated Stormers in Auckland.
The South Africans scored the only two tries on Friday but were undone by ill discipline and bad luck in a result that is a body blow for their playoff hopes.
Replacement first five-eighth Elton Jantjes missed a drop goal attempt in the 84th minute from 35m out after the Stormers had hammered away at resilient Blues defence well after the final hooter had sounded at North Harbour Stadium.
Stormers captain Jean de Villiers crossed for tries in the 65th and 76th minutes to give his team hope after they had trailed 15-3 but they couldn't repeat their audacious comeback from two years ago at Eden Park when they fought back to win from 16 points down.
The Blues were shaded up front by the visitors and never came close to scoring a try but Noakes' six goals from seven attempts proved the difference. It was the most penalties landed by a Blues player in a Super Rugby match.
It lifts them to the top of the New Zealand conference and third overall in the standings with six games still to follow in round 12.
Both teams came into the game with a four win-four loss record although the Blues were ranked five places higher in fifth place due to their competition-high eight bonus points.
They were fortunate to be 9-3 up at halftime, with the Stormers producing the more effective rugby, coming within centimetres of a try when lock Andries Bekker stretched his long arm out.
The boot of Chris Noakes has seen the Blues home in a tight finish against the Stormers (video available in Australia only)%]
However, the visitors were undone by simple turnovers and some loose kicking in general play.
The Blues had their best period in the third quarter, reducing their error count in greasy conditions to push clear before veteran second five-eighth de Villiers struck twice off the back of strong work from his pack. Both were converted by fullback Joe Pietersen, who landed seven points.
The Blues will be concerned about an apparent calf injury which forced veteran All Blacks hooker Keven Mealamu off in the 25th minute.
The Stormers lost lock De Kock Steenkamp to injury at half-time, allowing Springbok Eben Etzebeth to come off the bench for his first competition appearance this year.
Stormers coach Allister Coetzee congratulated the Blues for the way they kept their nerve at the end but he felt the Stormers handed the home team the victory.
"It was Test match rugby tonight and we didn't take the points, which is what you have to do," he said. "In this case we didn't take the right option, the pressure was too much and ultimately we didn't have enough time to go for the drop. That was one mistake we made but essentially we didn't lose the game there, we lost it in the first half by not converting the chances we had," he said.
"Each individual has to look at himself and ask why he could play like he did in the last 20 but not in the first 60. It's tough on the road. We've got the Waratahs coming up next weekend and we've got to make sure that we improve on this performance and improve a hell of a lot on our first 40 minutes."
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