The teams joined tributes to former Scotland and Lions lock Doddie Weir ahead of kick-off on a mild afternoon at Mattioli Woods Welford Road and Tigers were first on the attack and on the scoreboard. Olly Cracknell scythed his way through the defensive line to win a penalty 22 metres out and, after going to the corner, the No8 was back on the ball before Montoya picked up at the back of a ruck and found his way over to score. Freddie Burns made it a seven-point score in front of the biggest home crowd of the season so far. An offside in kickchase gave Irish an exit and Paddy Jackson judged his kick well into the right-hand corner for attacking position. Quick hands gave them a chance but lock Api Ratuniyawara was held up.
De Wet has made seven starts in 10 Vodacom URC matches leading up to the clash against the Warriors, and with the DHL Stormers coming off the high of two big derby wins in the competition over the Vodacom Bulls and Emirates Lions, the 26-year-old is eager to build on that momentum. The Warriors, who lost 32-7 in the last meeting with the DHL Stormers at DHL Stadium in 2021/22, are also coming off back-to-back derby wins against Edinburgh to quietly climb into sixth on the standings, 15 points behind the second-placed DHL Stormers.
Within a few minutes, Irish had another opportunity and, when the lineout drive was held up, one more pass found Ratuniyawara and he had enough power to get over the line. The conversion from Jackson levelled the scores. Tigers, though, quickly celebrated a second try, with scrum-half Wigglesworth sneaking around the blindside of a lineout drive to dive in, though the TMO did review several times before confirming. Anthony Watson moved through the gears in a break from deep and, although Irish covered in defence, a sliced kick from full-back Tom Parton restricted their advance and Burns judged a prod into the corner perfectly before the whistle went against the home team at a maul. Another piece of opportunism brought a third try as Tigers defended hard and, when Irish were forced into an error, Matt Scott reacted to pick up loose ball, break to halfway and then, assessing what was in front of him, measured his kick perfectly for Potter to chase.
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His midfield partner won the footrace, gathered possession and slid in for the score. The conversion took Burns past 1, 500 Premiership points and gave Tigers a 19-7 lead on 25 minutes. He was back on the tee again after the bonus-point try from Reffell, scored following Irish indiscipline. From a lineout penalty on halfway, Burns belted play into the left-hand corner just five metres short of the tryline and his colleagues made the most of the position, pushing the defence back and then gaining another penalty which set up a drive for Reffell to add the finish on the half-hour mark. Tom Pearson led an Irish attack from the restart but, after beating the first tackler, he was penalised in possession as Reffell contested on the floor.
Jantjies and Masimla have been ruled out of the team’s two-match trip to the United Kingdom, leaving De Wet, veteran Stefan Ungerer and uncapped Imad Khan to front the Glasgow Warriors at Scotstoun Stadium this week, and London Irish at the Gtech Community Stadium in the Heineken Champions Cup on 15 January.
“We are taking each game as a unique opportunity and challenge for the group. South African derbies take a different energy and adrenaline but now we need to focus on the next game, ” De Wet said. “We treat all our opposition with the highest respect. Playing away from home against any team will take that extra effort. Conditions are different and we will need to adapt and play the situation. ” Glasgow rival Ali Price – a British & Irish Lion who has won 58 Test caps for Scotland – is a formidable opponent, yet De Wet is relishing the duel as another opportunity for the former Paarl Boys’ High prodigy to catch the eye of national selectors in a World Cup year. “It is a great honour and privilege to play against the nines in the business, but I can only focus on my game and what is best for the team, ” De Wet said.
“I suppose every player is dreaming of the highest honours achievable. I am grateful for every opportunity to get gametime, improve my game in all departments and contribute to the team’s performance. ” It was close to 30 degrees playing on grass in front of thousands of supporters at DHL Stadium over the festive period for the DHL Stormers, who are now expected to face a hostile crowd on a synthetic pitch in icy Glasgow. De Wet, though, has embraced the challenge of cross-hemisphere conditions that comes with campaigning in Europe and the Republic simultaneously. “As professionals we need to adapt to every situation.
But the Tigers flanker was penalised moments later with Irish backing their set-piece in the corner to provide a response. Although Cracknell got under the final push by Pearson, the referee and TMO consulted replays before judging he had pulled down the maul short of the tryline and therefore awarded a seven-point score and sent the Tigers man to the sin bin. Tigers began the second half still a man down, adding Nadolo to the forward pack to cover Cracknell's absence, but the Fiji international left the field to a big reception on 47 minutes, replaced by Guy Porter.