Stormers fly-half Damian Willemse kicked 15 points and was yellow-carded in a surprisingly comfortable 30-13 win over Cheetahs Saturday in a South African Super Rugby Unlocked match.
The 2019 Rugby World Cup winner converted the three tries scored by the Cape Town outfit, slotted two penalties and kicked a monster drop-goal at Newlands stadium.
His drop-goal from close to the halfway line was the first of the competition and came in the 16th match and after 1,239 minutes of rugby.
It gave the Stormers a 13-3 half-time advantage over the visiting team from Bloemfontein, who twice narrowed the gap to seven points, but never looked likely winners.
Success lifted the Stormers one place to second, two points behind the Bulls with one round of matches remaining in a competition being staged behind closed doors because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Bulls appear to have the easier final fixture, at home to the lowly Pumas, while the Stormers will be away to the third-place Sharks.
"The boys showed incredible heart and fight," said Steven Kitshoff, the Stormers prop deputising as captain for the injured Siya Kolisi.
"There were some tough words said at half-time and after a slow start to the second half, we pulled away for a convincing victory."
Cheetahs loose forward Junior Pokomela, also a stand-in skipper with scrum-half Ruan Pienaar injured, offered no excuses for a lacklustre performance.
- 'Second best' -
"The Stormers were dominant and we need to study where it all went wrong. An area of concern must be the set pieces, where we came off second best."
After setting the pace with two victories, the Cheetahs have suffered successive losses and are out of contention for the title with only 12 points.
Another World Cup winner, scrum-half Herschel Jantjies, made a blindside dart to the line for a try Willemse converted to gave the Stormers an early seven-point lead.
Willemse stretched the advantage to 10 points with a penalty before rival fly-half Tian Schoeman slotted the first of his two penalties for the Cheetahs.
The long-range drop goal from the Stormers playmaker closed the first half scoring and his side ran off the field holding a 10-point lead.
Referee Marius van der Westhuizen provided a light-hearted moment during the opening half when he got trapped in a ruck and said "sorry guys, I am not part of the game".
A spectacular try by Cheetahs winger Rosko Specman, who scored while airborne, left his team trailing by seven points with 15 minutes left.
But instead of stirring a Cheetahs comeback, the Stormers controlled the closing stages and outstanding full-back Warrick Gelant scored a try.
Willemse was sent to the sin bin in the final minute for a cynical knock-on while offside.