Lions scrape home against wily Waratahs

Aphiwe Dyantyi during the Super Rugby match between Emirates Lions and Waratahs at Emirates Airline Park on May 11, 2019 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images)

Aphiwe Dyantyi during the Super Rugby match between Emirates Lions and Waratahs at Emirates Airline Park on May 11, 2019 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images)

Defence proves an afterthought in Doornfontein, but at least Swys de Bruin’s troops are back on track.

In a game where the lead kept changing hands, the Lions scored the narrowest of wins, scraping home 29-28 in their Super Rugby clash at Ellis Park on Saturday against the Waratahs.

With both teams guilty of some soft defence at times, eight tries were scored – each team dotting down four times –  while the penalty by Lions reserve flyhalf Shaun Reynolds, who at that stage had replaced Elton Jantjies, proved the difference between the sides.

It’s the Lions sixth win in their 11th game and have moved them up to 26 points on the SA Conference and just three behind the leading Sharks, illustrating how tight the group is.

Who was the star in this match?

It was difficult not to give the award to Lions captain Warren Whiteley, who was all over the park. He organised, talked sternly and motivated. His role was none more apparent when wing Courtnall Skosan scored the home team’s fourth try after the break, acting as a linking player and finding hooker Malcolm Marx, who off-loaded to the charging Skosan.

Key moments and themes

  • In the first half it was a case of one for you, one for me as Waratahs scrumhalf Nick Phibbs scored first in the fourth minutes, but seven minutes later Lions wing Aphiwe Dyantyi scored to level matters at 7-7. Waratahs captain Michael Hooper was next to score before Lions lock Stephan Lewies scored to level matters again at 14-14. The trend continued with lock Rob Simmons scoring next for the ‘Tahs for a 21-14 lead, but then it was the Lions turn again to score through brilliant flanker Kwagga Smith after sterling work was done in the lead-up by centre Harold Vorster to trail 19-21 at the break. It really wasn’t a day for defence.
  • Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus would’ve been frustrated with the Lions’ tackling. They missed 22 of their 112 tackles and it was particularly revealing how they botched rather undemanding ones. South African sides overall this weekend have looked poor and disorganised.
  • The Lions finally got their noses in front four minutes after the break at 26-21 after their fourth try was scored by wing Courtnall Skosan, but the Tahs kept pushing with fullback Kurtley Beale and captain Hooper giving the Lions defensive nightmares. At least the hosts managed to exert some form of control in the last quarter, with their set-pieces in particular proving instrumental (eventually) in keeping the Aussies at bay.

Point scorers:

Lions – Tries: Aphiwe Dyantyi, Stephan Lewies, Kwagga Smith, Courtnall Skosan. Conversions: Elton Jantjies (3). Penalty: Shaun Reynolds.

Waratahs – Tries: Nick Phipps, Michael Hooper, Rob Simmons, Tom Staniforth. Conversions: Bernard Foley (4).

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