By Jason Humphries
CAPE TOWN, July 14 (Reuters) – The Stormers clinched top
spot i n the final Super Rugby standings with a 26-21 win over
the Melbourne Rebels at Newlands on Saturday.
The South African side ended the league phase of the
competition at the head of the table on 66 points, two clear of
New Zealand’s Waikato Chiefs.
The Stormers, who will host a semi-final and the final if
they get there, had to repel a strong second-half performance
from the Australian visitors who trailed 16-0 at halftime before
clawing their way back with three tries.
However, it was not enough to provide former Australia
international Stirling Mortlock, an 80-test veteran, with a
winning swansong in the 35-year-old’s last game before retiring.
The Stormers played the first half with a strong wind at
their backs and made all the early running as two penalties from
flyhalf Peter Grant put them 6-0 ahead after eight minutes.
Grant ended the match with 16 points courtesy of two
conversions and four penalties in a flawless kicking display.
The home team continued to build on their territorial
advantage and they grabbed their first try, in the 14th minute,
when outside centre Juan de Jongh stepped off his left foot to
beat two defenders.
The Rebels fought back and they had the better of the second
quarter of the match but were unable to breach a Stormers
defence which had, before the game, conceded just 18 tries all