The Lions were still comfortable winners – scoring seven tries with casual ease – but the DHL Stormers had clearly learnt lessons from the tourists’ 50-point plus score lines in their victories over the Cell C Sharks (twice) and Sigma Lions.
They deployed the Springbok-style rush defence and played with a commendable urgency that rattled the Lions, while also taking the Stormers’ to the limit of their skills and fitness. It was a noble effort but still the tourists got to within touching distance of the half century with 14 points in the final seven minutes blowing out the score.
The DHL Stormers had made such a bright start. For the first 20 minutes they had hustled, harassed and haunted the illustrious red shirts into gain-line impotence as the home team surged into every contact with impressive zeal.
For almost half an hour they actually led thanks to a Tim Swiel penalty goal after Hamish Watson was penalised for illegally trying to snaffle a ball at the breakdown. It was slim reward for some urgent play in which fullback Sergeal Petersen was at the heart of everything that was good.
But the Lions line held firm and, as the DHL Stormers began to tire, the pendulum swung decisively back in the other direction with the visitors marginally sharper reactions, marginally more precise execution seeing them claim three tries in the 12 minutes before halftime; the third of them after the siren.
Locks Adam Beard and Johnny Hill each claimed one – either side of a bust from a stalled maul by hooker Luke Cowan Dickie – the locks’ tries reward for quick hands and brisk recycling and finished from a handful of metres by the galloping big men.
The Stormers made a similarly bright – if shorter start after the interval – having the best of the opening ten minutes before the Lions pounced on loose play once more. No 8 Jack Conan ran in untouched under the crossbar from 25 metres after the Stormers defence had again been unhinged by quick hands and quicker thinking.
They claimed only their second try of the half in the 68th minute (a one-metre pick-and-go from one metre by replacement prop Zander Fagerson) followed by long-range run ins from Louis Rees-Zammit (wing) and Sam Simmonds (flanker). They were reward for great support play and skills as the red jerseys attacked from turnover with relish.
Now for the Tests.
DHL Stormers 3 (3) – Penalty goal: Tim Swiel
British & Irish Lions 49 (21) – Tries: Adam Beard, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Johnny Hill, Jack Conan, Zander Fagerson, Louis Rees-Zammit, Sam Simmonds. Conversions: Marcus Smith (7).