It was a typical game of two halves, with the Capetonians finishing very strongly with their replacements making a big difference in the last half-hour to seal the win after they drew and lost their last two clashes in the competition, which they won last season.
But credit to the Emirates Lions too, they came hard and played a big part in ensuring this derby was another one for the ages, although the hosts will probably rue a number of missed opportunities in the second half which could have taken the game away from the visitors.
The Emirates Lions would have entered the changerooms very happy after they took a 12-point lead at the end of an action-packed first-half, punishing the DHL Stormers for their indiscipline and taking the one big opportunity they had with both hands.
The hosts were off to a 6-0 lead courtesy of penalty goals by Jordan Hendrikse before Angelo Davids crashed over in the corner after a strong attack to put the visitors in the lead by 7-6 after 10 minutes, with Manie Libbok adding the extras from a tricky angle.
Hendrikse and Libbok then traded two more penalty goals which saw the DHL Stormers lead by 10-9 after 22 minutes, with Hendrikse getting yellow carded for a dangerous tackle, but despite playing with only 14 men, the rest of the first half basically belonged to the Emirates Lions.
Sanele Nohamba took over the kicking duties and calmly landed two penalty goals to give his side a 15-10 lead by the time the Emirates Lions flyhalf came back onto the field, and four minutes later Henco van Wyk powered his way over for the hosts’ first try after they managed to rip open the visitors’ defence.
Hendrikse landed the conversion and at 22-10 with time winding down in the first half, the Emirates Lions were in control, but the DHL Stormers were not done yet.
After failing to convert three opportunities to score early in the second half from lineout drives – one try was overturned by the TMO – the visitors then stepped up a gear in the final 25 minutes, scoring three tries without reply.
Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu went over from a clever kick by Libbok, with a bit of a fortuitous bounce aiding the Junior Springbok captain to score, and 15 minutes later Clayton Blommetjies ran a superb line to leave the Emirates Lions’ defenders flat-footed to score untouched under the uprights.
Libbok converted both to put his side in the lead by 24-22 and six minutes later, the DHL Stormers were rewarded for their patience with the maul when Nama Xaba was driven over, with their flyhalf again making no mistake to all but seal the bonus-point win at 31-22 with time basically up.
Emirates Lions 22 (22) – Try: Henco van Wyk. Conversion: Jordan Hendrikse. Penalty goals: Hendrikse (3), Sanele Nohamba (2).
DHL Stormers 31 (10) – Tries: Angelo Davids, Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu, Clayton Blommetjies, Nama Xaba. Conversions: Manie Libbok (4). Penalty goal: Libbok.