Go the Lions!
After pretty much being outplayed in the first half and trailing 22-3 after 37 minutes, Johannesburg’s Pride staged the bravest of comebacks in their semifinal against the Hurricanes at Ellis Park on Saturday.
In fact, they delivered such a compelling performance that they secured an emphatic 44-29 win to secure a first-ever Super Rugby final at home.
They will now meet the Crusaders in the showpiece, who beat the Chiefs earlier in the day 27-13.
The Lions must be praised for overcoming some unsporting and spoiling tactics by the visitors in the first half to take matters in their own hands.
They started playing in the right areas of the field and cut down on their errors.
It all started going pear-shape for the visitors when their match-winner flyhalf Beauden Barrett was yellow carded in the 58th minute with the home team trailing 22-29 when he killed the ball on the deck when it looked like Lions wing Ruan Combrinck was well on his way of scoring a certain try.
Who was the star of this game?
It’s so difficult to name the most influential player as it required a team effort from the Lions to fight their way back into the game.
There were huge efforts from the entire team, with flankers Jaco Kriel and Kwagga Smith superb, but let’s be brave and give it to Lions flyhalf Elton Jantjies who was brilliant after being written off just a week ago.
Key themes and moments
- While the Lions started well to score the first penalty points through Jantjies in the fourth minute, it was the Hurricanes that pounced with the opening try in the seventh minute through scrumhalf TJ Perenara after a Jantjies pass didn’t go to hand inside the home team’s danger zone. That was a precursor to the hosts’ struggles in the first 40.
- The Hurricanes also scored the second try of the game through left wing Wes Goosen after flyhalf Beauden Barrett ghosted through an outside gap. There was some really poor defending in that instance.
- Vital for the Lions was their opening try scored by prop Jacques van Rooyen two minutes before the break. It closed the gap to 12 points and provided them with vital momentum going into the second half. It also showed the Lions how to approach things.
- While they eventually played the free-flowing rugby they’re known for, the Lions laid the foundation for their comeback by reverting to structured, risk-free rugby. Scrumhalf Ross Cronje’s try was the biggest testament to that.
Lions: Tries: Jacques van Rooyen, Ross Cronje, Malcolm Marx, Harold Vorster, Elton Jantjies, Kwagga Smith. Conversions: Jantjies (4). Penalties: Jantjies (2).
Hurricanes: Tries: TJ Perenara, Wes Goosen, Ardie Savea, Ngani Laumape. Conversion: Jordie Barrett (2), Beauden Barrett. Penalty: Jordie Barrett.