In a match where the ten tries, five by each team, were indicative of defensive frailties, the Lions clinched the results against the Highlanders with a brilliant try a little more than a minute from full time.
The Lions won 38-29 at Ellis Park where the difference in the scoreline was the missed conversions by the visiting side and a successful penalty by the Lions.
With both teams struggling to make the play-offs in what has been a disappointing season for both, there was all to play for. It made for a game of one for you and one for me as both teams played attacking rugby whenever possible but unfortunately spoiled it with many unforced errors.
♦ Seemingly out of it at 22-31, the Highlanders scored a goal with Dan Hollinshead going over with five minutes remaining. At 29-31 it was anyone’s game when the Highlanders attacked, made one of their 37 handling errors.
From the scrum and the following play Aphiwe Dyantyi at last got the ball with time and space, used his pace beautifully and played the ball to the inside with fellow-winger Courtnall Skosan going over.
A fifth conversion by Elton Jantjies, who played a mature game and controlled matters throughout, whether on attack of defence, brought the score to 38-29.
♦ Pleasant, good to watch and exciting, but not a technically good match by any stretch of the imagination. The Lions won, and deservedly so, but needed to do more to convince one that they remain serious contenders to win the SA Conference or progress further than the early play-offs, should they reach it at all.
♦ The Lions led 14-12 after an expansive first half for which the two teams’ attitude in running the ball whenever possible and some poor tackling by both teams were responsible.
While the Lions had the greater portion of possession and territorial advantage in the first half (as they did in the second), they conceded twice as many turnovers as the visitors, who op the other hand missed two clear scoring opportunities with handling errors when a try seemed a certainty.
The Lions, with two botched lineouts when they opted to take penalties to the corner and another two well neutralized by the visitors, also had opportunities to rue before halftime.
♦ In summary, it was pleasant, good to watch and exciting, but not a technically good match by any stretch of the imagination. The Lions won, and deservedly so, but needed to do more to convince one that they remain serious contenders to win the SA Conference or progress further than the early play-offs, should they reach it at all.
Lions (14) 38: Tries: Andries Coetzee, Kwagga Smith (2), Shaun Reynolds, Courtnall Skosan. Conversions: Elton Jantjies (4). Penalty: Jantjies.
Highlanders (12) 29: Tries: Sio Tomkinson, Tom Franklin, Jordan Hyland, Matt Faddes, Josh Ioane. Conversion: Ioane (2).