Ockert de Villiers - Sport24
Johannesburg - The Lions romped to their ninth victory of the season with a 27-22 victory over the defending Super Rugby champions Waratahs in Johannesburg on Saturday to keep their playoff hopes alive.
As it happened: Lions v Waratahs
The Lions produced one of the most entertaining first halves of rugby this season to go into the half-time break with a 17-10 lead over the defending champions with winger Ruan Combrinck scoring a brace.
The Johannesburg side move to seventh place on the overall log with 40 points and will face South African Conference leaders the Stormers in their final match of the regular competition in Cape Town next weekend.
Chief among the Lions’ performers on the night was fiery flanker Jaco Kriel, who was in phenomenal form with the ball in hand.
The gritty openside flanker topped the defenders beaten stats on the night as he regularly pierced the Waratahs’ defences to get past seven players.
True to their promise that they would be looking to dictate the pace from the outset, the Lions made their intentions clear when they set up a lineout instead of going for the three points on offer six minute into the encounter.
From the lineout the Lions advanced on the line with Lions pivot Elton Jantjies sending a skip pass to Ruan Combrinck waiting on the wings with a player overlap to dive over for the opening try.
The Waratahs responded four minutes later with a Bernard Foley penalty conversion before they also found the tryline in the 18th minute.
Television Match Official Johan Greeff awarded a rather controversial try after the replay showed scrumhalf Nick Phipps knocked the ball on before flanker Steven Hoiles collected to score, with Foley converting for a three-point lead.
A yellow card to Rob Horne for a late and tip tackle on Lionel Mapoe tipped the scales in the Lions’ favour as they collected 10 points in the period the Waratahs wing spent in the bin.
The first three points came courtesy of a Jantjies penalty goal in the 28th minute before Ruan Combrink scored his second try of the game.
The Lions wing found a gap deep inside his own half and was brought down before scrumhalf Faf de Klerk also made a break only to see Combrinck claim the try.
The hosts got the second half off to a good start when Jantjies slotted a penalty conversion three minutes after the break.
Luck seemed to smile upon the Lions as they again went a player up when South African flanker Jacques Potgieter was shown a yellow for a late shoulder charge on Lions captain Warren Whiteley.
Three minutes after he left the field the Lions pounced from a turnover to score their third try of the night.
Receiving the ball on the right touchline Combrinck mad e beeline towards the goal line before he sold a dummy to his inside and then offloaded to a speeding Harold Vorster, who ran through for the five-pointer.
A bit of complacency then set in as the Lions leaked two tries in a space of six minutes as Adam Ashley-Cooper first crossed the whitewash in the 53rd minute.
Six minutes later the Lions’ defence again proved inefficient as Rob Horne went over in the left hand corner with Foley converting to get his side within five points of the Lions with 20 minutes left to play.
The Lions had a few opportunities to extend the lead but Jantjies failed with three attempts at goal to ensure a nervous end where the visitors threatened to score but they managed to keep them out for a well-deserved victory.
In next weekend's action, the Lions travel down to Cape Town to face the Stormers, while the Waratahs tackle the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.
Tries: Ruan Combrinck (2), Harold Vorster
Conversions: Elton Jantjies (3)
Penalties: Jantjies (2)
Tries: Stephen Hoiles, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Rob Horne
Conversions: Bernard Foley (2)
15. Andries Coetzee, 14. Ruan Combrinck, 13. Lionel Mapoe, 12. Harold Vorster, 11. Courtnall Skosan, 10. Elton Jantjies, 9. Faf de Klerk, 8. Warren Whiteley (captain), 7. Warwick Tecklenburg, 6. Jaco Kriel, 5. Franco Mostert, 4. Martin Muller, 3. Julian Redelinghuys, 2. Armand van der Merwe, 1. Schalk van der Merwe
Substitutes: 16. Malcolm Marx, 17. Corne Fourie, 18. Ruan Dreyer, 19. Robert Kruger, 20. Kwagga Smith, 21. Dillon Smit, 22. Marnitz Boshoff, 23. Stokkies Hanekom
15 Israel Folau, 14 Taqele Naiyaravoro, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Rob Horne, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Stephen Hoiles, 5 Dave Dennis (captain), 4 Mitchell Chapman, 3 Sekope Kepu. 2 Hugh Roach, 1 Benn Robinson
Substitutes: 16 David Porecki, 17 Jeremy Tilse, 18 Paddy Ryan, 19 Jacques Potgieter, 20 Dean Mumm, 21 Pat McCutcheon, 22 Brendan McKibbin, 23 Matt Carraro