Connacht’s dreadful start to the season took another bad turn when Bundee Aki was sent off for a reckless head tackle after coming on as a replacement, paving the way for champions the Stormers to push on and claim a bonus point win and leave Andy Friend’s men at the foot of the URC table without a point.
Connacht were trailing 19-8 when Tom Farrell raced in to score under the posts but the move after 55 minutes was whistled back for Aki’s tackle, when the Irish centre’s shoulder crashed into the head of Seabelo Senatla at full tilt when the Stormers winger was crouched over John Porch trying to poach the ball.
Aki is now facing a suspension and he did not help his cause by continuing to argue with Italian referee Gianluca Gnecchi and with the fourth official when he eventually left the field at the scenic Danie Craven Stadium in Stellenbosch.
Stormers then quickly ran in a couple of tries and wrapped up the win and ensured Connacht remain pointless after two games and due to take on runner-sup the Bulls in Pretoria next week.
Connacht recovered from a poor start to cross before the break and cut the gap to 13-8 at the interval.
The champions, despite being without their Springboks, laid down a firm marker after five minutes when superb No.8 Evan Roos, who made his Springbok debut during the summer, drove through the tackle of Mack Hansen to score in the left corner.
Manie Libbok added the difficult conversion to get the Stormers up and running and leave Connacht face another tough outing.
But the Connacht defence was good after that for the remainder of the opening half and they dealt with anything the champions threw at them.
Conor Fitzgerald reduced the margin after eight minutes when he slotted a 30-metre penalty.
Stormers were willing to stretch the lead rather than going for the jugular and Libbok was successful with of three penalties to lead by 13-3 after 27 minutes.
Connacht finally managed to build the phases and a high tackle on John Porch by scrum-half Paul de Wet as he broke down the right, gave the visitors a platform for a sustained period of pressure which eventually yielded a try and a yellow card for Stormers lock Marvin Orie, with the champions coughing up nine penalties in the opening half.
Connacht finally got over when they went to the left corner with a penalty and hooker Dylan Tierney-Martin touched down after a good maul to cut the deficit to five points at the interval.
Connacht lost scrum-half Caolin Blade to a foot injury eight minutes after the restart which could make him doubtful for Emerging Ireland duty in Bloemfontein next week.
Libbok extended Stormers’ lead with a penalty before Aki, sporting a new blonde hairstyle, gave up a penalty in front of his posts after coming when he was in front of Fitzgerald when the out-half cleared his line.
That soft penalty pushed the Stormers 19-8 in front going into the final quarter and Connacht’s day got worse when Aki was red-carded and a try under the posts from Tom Farrell was scratched when the officials called play back to look at the tackle from the Irish centre.
Stormers, who had been playing more adventurous rugby since the interval, then opened up with the extra man and hooker Andre-Hugo Venter finished off an outrageous passing movement to score a superb try in the left corner, with Libbok adding the difficult convert.
A turnover in midfield was then punished when flanker Hacjivah Dayimani raced in to score, but Connacht countered and were rewarded when replacement prop Jack Aungier managed to touch down after a good surge, with David Hawkshaw converting.
Connacht were unable to prevent the Stormers getting a bonus point, with replacement Marcel Theunissen scoring deep into stoppage time and the woe continued with another member of the Emerging Ireland squad Cian Prendergast limping badly in the closing stages.
E Roos, A Venter, H Dayimani, M Theunissen. M Libbok (3). : Libbok (4).
D Tierney-Martin, J Aungier. D Hawkshaw. C Fitzgerald.
C Blommetjies; A Davids (G Masimla 73), S Hartzenberg (S Mngomezulu 57), D du Plessis (G Masimla 73), S Senatla; M Libbok, P de Wet; A Vermaak (K Blose 64), A Venter (C Solomon 64), B Harris (N Fouche 52); E van Rhyn (c) (A Smith 53), M Orie; J Pokomela, H Dayimani, E Roos (M Theunissen 70).
O McNulty (B Aki 51); J Porch, B Ralston, T Farrell, M Hansen; C Fitzgerald (D Hawkshaw 61), C Blade (K Marmion 48); D Buckley (P Dooley 57), D Tierney-Martin (D Heffernan 57), F Bealham (J Aungier 57); J Murphy, N Murray (O Dowling 65); C Prendergast, J Butler (c), P Boyle (S Hurley-Langton 65).
G Gnecchi (Italy).