The Lions saved the combined blushes of the SA Rugby Conference when they won, by a single point, the only one of this weekend’s four matches by a SA conference team by beating the Waratahs 29-28 at Ellis Park on Saturday afternoon.
Earlier in the day the Jaguares went down 27-32 to the Highlanders in Otago after the Bulls had been overrun 45-13 by the Crusaders at Loftus on Friday night. Then the Sharks lost 23-29 against the Hurricanes who kept their undefeated home record for the season intact on a weekend where the frailties of the teams in the SA conference were again exposed and exploited.
♦ It would’ve been an injustice had the Lions not pulled this one off through a penalty by replacement flyhalf Shaun Reynolds 12 minutes from fulltime.
The totally dominated possession and territory, played most of the rugby with ball in hand and somehow contrived to allow four tries to the Waratahs after scoring four themselves. What’s more, referee Egon Seconds awarded the visitors a paltry two penalties in the match – and even allowing for the Waratahs attempts to wrench advantage from Lions transgressions, only two penalties point to a near perfect performance of discipline by the home side.
It was nevertheless a good effort by the Lions, coming off a horrendous three weeks of internal problems including coaches’ illness and legal problems. Too many handling errors, close to 30, by the two teams did not matter to the sparse crowd who saw some good running albeit against average tackling, some good interplay and a close match that kept the pulses running.
Missed tackles (22 from 112 attempts to the Tahs 26 failed tackles from 155) were part of the problem that ensured that it could, despite all its other plusses, not be regarded as more than just an average match.
Lions (19) 29: Tries: Aphiwe Dyantyi, Stephan Lewies, Kwagga Smith, Courtnall Skosan. Conversions: Elton Jantjies (3).
Waratahs (21) 28: Tries Nick Phipps, Michael Hooper, Rob Simmons, Tom Staniforth. Conversions: Bernard Foley (4).