The air at Ellis Park was a bit chilly on Saturday afternoon, but the Lions warmed their supporters’ hearts with a resounding 40-23 win over the Jaguares to cement a place in the Super Rugby semifinals for a third successive season.
They’ll be back in Doornfontein next weekend to host the Waratahs, who earlier edged the Highlanders 30-23.
The Lions produced one of their best halves of rugby this season in taking a commanding lead of 24-9 at the break but had to pull up their socks after the Argentinians narrowed the gap to 24-16 and then later to 27-23 with some stirring attacking play.
At least the Lions acknowledged after those scores that they were in a contest and opted to build scoreboard pressure.
It was good tactics.
Who was the star in this match?
While there’s a temptation to give the award to menacing hooker Malcolm Marx, this time it has to go to flyhalf Elton Jantjies. The Springbok pivot contributed 20 points with his boot and in general was back to his best in making sound decisions and keeping the scoreboard ticking. His sublime cross-kick set up Ruan Combrinck’s try, while he also put the cherry on top with a skillful drop goal.
Key moments and themes
- The Lions again didn’t start well as they trailed 6-0 in as many minutes following two penalties from Jaguares flyhalf Nicholas Sanchez. Referee Jaco Peyper pinged both Franco Mostert and Lionel Mapoe at the breakdown in those instances. However, the hosts used those scores as wake-up calls and regrouped quickly.
- Following Combrinck’s opening try, the Lions impressed with some delightful innovation on attack. Centre Harold Vorster produced a fine sleight of hand and chip forward, which was brilliantly kicked ahead by wing Aphiwe Dyantyi. The Jaguares fumbled possession, allowing Vorster to round off.
- But the highlight was Marx, who intercepted from the halfway line and galloped at full speed. He dived over without a single defender in sight.
- The Jaguares showed typical resillience in striking back, exploiting some slack defending but their own error rate prevented them from making real headway.
- The Lions varied play was a highlight. Their scrum consistently bullied the Jaguares’ pack and they also mixed and matched their options on attack quite well. Their defence, with the odd exception, also showed improvement.
Lions – Tries: Ruan Combrinck, Harold Vorster, Malcolm Marx, Andries Coetzee. Conversions: Elton Jantjies (4). Penalties: Jantjies (3). Drop Goal: Jantjies.
Jaguares – Tries: Bautista Delguy, Pablo Matera. Conversions: Nicolas Sanchez (2). Penalties: Sanchez (3).