The Lions pushed all the way by a fast-running Highlanders team, had to pull out all the stops after an error-ridden contest before clinching a tight Super Rugby game at Ellis Park by 38-29.
With a rolling maul that failed to click and a high handling error-rate, it however took a scintillating try by wing Courtnall Skosan a minute from time after superb work by wing partner Aphiwe Dyantyi to finally put daylight between the two sides.
This seventh win of the Lions’ season pushed them up to sixth overall and third in the South African conference, just two points behind the Bulls and the Jaguares.
Who was the star in this match?
No player had a bigger influence on the game than Lions captain and hooker Malcolm Marx, who was colossal in the contact areas and immense at the breakdown, winning crucial ball for the hosts when the visitors threatened to dominate this area of the game. He often popped up on the edges or acted as a decoy ball-carrier on the edges of the touchline.
Key Moments and themes
- There was quite a frenetic start to the game with the Highlanders scoring the first try through rightwing Sio Tomkinson in the fifth minute. The Lions had conceded turnover ball and it went quickly through the hands.
- The tit-for-tat nature of the game was established when the Lions gained the lead the first time in the 13th minute with their opening try through fullback Andries Coetzee following a superb break by flyhalf Elton Jantjies. He delayed his pass just long enough to send No 8 Kwagga Smith through a gaping hole, who found the support of Coetzee.
- The Highlanders kept on punishing the home team at the breakdowns and another turnover saw the ball quickly recycled and Ioane perfectly executing a short pass to lock Tom Franklin. The Lions, however, had the last say in the first half with the Lions scoring their second five-pointer through Smith in the 38th minute.
- The Lions approach of gaining quick ball was obviously identified by the shrewd Highlanders, who tried to slow the hometeam’s ball down while applying a quick tempo of their own. That meant they scored two further tries on the counter.
- However, the home side’s powerful performance at scrumtime again got them out of a few tight positions and they generally managed to do well in keeping the score ticking over given their majority of possession. We’ve seen numerous times in 2019 how teams with the ball don’t make it count.
Lions – Tries: Kwagga Smith (2), Andries Coetzee, Shaun Reynolds, Courtnall Skosan. Conversions: Elton Jantjies (5). Penalty: Jantjies.
Highlanders – Tries: Sio Tomkinson, Thomas Franklin, Jordan Hyland, Matt Faddes, Josh Ioane. Conversions: Ioane, Dan Hollinshead.