Handré Pollard engineers Stormers’ downfall
Bok flyhalf’s accurate boot and a try seal win for Leicester Tigers
Springbok flyhalf Handré Pollard steered his adopted English team Leicester Tigers to a narrow 35-26 win over a gutsy second-string Stormers side in a Champions Cup clash on Sunday.
It was always going to be an uphill battle for a depleted Stormers outfit in front of a partisan home crowd who packed Welford Road to watch this north vs south duel.
In icy conditions, Pollard displayed an even cooler temperament with his accurate boot giving the Tigers an edge in a tight contest.
Apart from his tactical kicking, Pollard booted three penalties and three conversions and dotted down a try to help the Tigers make a winning start to the tournament.
The Stormers, who are targeting maximum points in their home game against La Rochelle in Cape Town on Saturday, sent an experimental side to England.
Taking full advantage of an error-riddled first-half showing by the Tigers, the Stormers enjoyed a shock 17-10 lead at halftime.
Shaken by the early Stormers onslaught, Leicester were the first to score after the break when Pollard reduced the deficit to 17-13 by kicking a penalty.
Leicester regained the lead in the 48th minute when Leicester’s powerful centre, Solomone Kata, rounded off a flowing move from the home side.
The never-say-die Stormers responded in style when cool-headed Stormers debutant Jurie Matthee slotted a drop goal to leave the teams locked at 20-20.
The see-saw nature of the game saw Leicester back in front when Pollard nailed his third penalty to hand his team a 23-20 lead.
With the game in the melting pot, Mathee booted a second penalty to make it 23-23.
Leicester regained the lead when the ever-present Pollard went over for his team’s third try after 65 minutes that he converted.
From the outset, Tigers showed they were not afraid to give the ball air and their early dominance earned them a penalty, which Pollard booted between the posts to give his team a 3-0 lead after five minutes.
The Stormers were back on level terms after 11 minutes when Matthew nailed a penalty after the Tigers infringed at a line-out.
The first try came after 14 minutes when Kata powered his way through the Stormers defence to put his side into an 8-3 lead.
Undeterred after leaking an early try, the Stormers put the Tigers under pressure in slippery conditions, which made handling difficult.
After 28 minutes, Stormers No 8 Keke Morabe split the Leicester defence with an explosive charge off the back of a five-metre scrum.
Matthee, showing composure in his debut, added the extras to leave the teams all square at 10-10 after a lively start to the game.
Stung by the Stormers’ try, the Tigers upped the tempo but were held at bay by a committed defence, which put their bodies on the line to keep the home team out.
On the stroke of halftime, the Stormers took the lead thanks to an opportunistic try by Courtnall Skosan after good work by scrumhalf Paul de Wet who initiated a foot race for the Leicester try line.
• Lions flyhalf Jordan Hendrikse put in a man-of-the-match performance, kicking 23 points as his second-stringers pulled off a victory away from home in the EPCR Challenge Cup against Perpignan, winning 28-12 on Sunday.
Hendrikse’s boot was the difference as the Lions punished an ill-disciplined French side, who did not score a point in the second half and never really looked like they were in the game.
Additional reporting by SuperSport.com
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