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RugbyU: Blues edge out late-surging Stormers

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

The Auckland Blues held on for a dramatic 18-17 win over the Western Stormers in a bruising encounter at North Harbour Stadium on Friday.

The Stormers scored the only two tries of the match through captain Jean de Villiers but it was not enough as Blues flyhalf Chris Noakes booted a club record six penalties to get the New Zealanders over the line.

Allister Coetzee's men combined plenty of attacking intent with their renowned defence to narrow a 9-3 half-time deficit, only just missing out on a last-gasp victory when Elton Jantjies scuffed an attempted drop goal after the final siren.

The Blues first win over the Stormers since 2009 keeps them in touch with New Zealand conference leaders the Waikato Chiefs, who play the Melbourne Rebels in Melbourne later Friday.

Blues captain Ali Williams praised the way his team bounced back from a narrow loss to the Queensland Reds last week.

"We're growing, there's something exciting here," he said. "We're working for each other, that's the key thing and we're having some fun.

"(But) that's a tough Stormers outfit, I'm sore."

The game began at a frantic pace, with two Noakes penalties separating the sides mid-way through the first half.

The South Africans should have had the first try on 20 minutes after a run from winger Gio Aplon but Andries Bekker was held up short of the line and they had to settle for a penalty.

They set up another opportunity off the back of a rolling maul, only for the attack to break down when the ball was knocked on, before Noakes made it three penalties from three, ending a frustrating half for the Stormers.

A further two penalties after the restart extended the Blues' lead and they could have put the game beyond doubt when Quentin MacDonald dived for the corner but lost the ball forward.

The Stormers' patience finally paid off when captain Jean de Villiers released Juan de Jongh for a run at the posts, then collected the looping offload and bulldozed his way over for the first try of the match.

Another Noakes penalty made it 18-10 before de Villiers cut loose from the midfield and outpaced Frank Halai for his second try with six minutes on the clock.

Pietersen added the conversion and the Stormers were given a final chance from a scrum as the siren sounded.

They worked the ball through 21 phases looking for an opportunity, finally giving the ball to Jantjies, who mis-kicked, sending the ball skidding along the turf from the side of his boot.

ns/ami

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130503/rugbyu-blues-edge-out-late-surging-stormers