Jaguares send Lions home empty handed
MATCH REPORT: The Lions finished second on the Super Rugby standings, after their second string selection fell short against the Jaguares on Saturday.
The Argentinean franchise, loaded with the bulk of the country's national team, beat the Lions' back-up team 34-22 in Buenos Aires.
The result is that the Hurricanes top the standings, one point ahead of the Lions - who opted to rest their entire frontline selection ahead of the play-offs.
Coach Johan Ackermann argued that the marathon flights to and from Buenos Aires, along with the brutal nature of the Jaguares' game, would have counted against his team in the play-offs.
Having already secured second place, it means the Lions will host the quarterfinal - where they face the Crusaders next week - as well as a possible semifinal.
If the Hurricanes win both their quarterfinal and semifinal, the Lions will have to travel to New Zealand for the Final.
The Lions opted for their high-paced approach in Buenos Aires on Saturday, while the Jaguares preferred a more structure game.
Added to that the visitors' very effective rush-defence contributed to keeping the Jaguares at bay for long periods in the first half.
The scrums were certainly the Lions' big Achilles heel - with the Argentineans winning a number of penalties and turnovers in the set pieces.
They were also heavily penalised by referee Rohan Hoffman in general play - although the visitors can feel aggrieved about his consistency with how he treated the offside line, high tackles and the breakdown.
However, the Lions did not help themselves with a number of unforced errors - especially some aimless kicking that handed possession back to the home team - and their handling errors.
The Lions enjoyed the early territorial advantage and an offside penalty allowed Jaco van der Walt to open the scoring in the fourth minute.
A couple of offside penalties against the Lions afforded Nicolas Sanchez a chance to level the scores in the 12th minute.
However, the Lions hit straight back when - after some strong phase play and a sniping break by Ross Cronje - Anthony Volmink strolled over in the left corner for the game's first try. Van der Walt's conversion made it 10-3.
Sanchez kicked a second penalty, after the Lions went offside at the restart, and then made it a one-point game after yet another offside penalty.
Again the Lions showed their superior skills - quick hands and clinical recycling creating the space for Sylvian Mahuza to get a second try for the visitors. This time Van der Walt was wide with the conversion - 15-9 after 27 minutes.
On the stroke of half-time a powerful scrum earned the Jaguares a penalty and Sanchez made it 12-15 at the break.
The Lions got their second half off to a dream start - Koch Marx picked up a stray ball and sprinted 40 metres downfield. WQuick recycling and slick handling found Volmink near the let touchline and he slipped between two defenders for his second try. Van der Walt's conversion made it 22-12.
The Jaguares started gaining the ascendancy in the scrums and two powerful shoves - one resulting ain a penalty - No.8 Facundo Isa powered over for the home team's first try. The conversion was wide - 17-22 after 50 minutes.
Soon afterwards the Lions were reduced to 14 men - a questionable call by the referee about Kyle Brink playing the ball from an offside position in the tackle.
And from a five-metre scrum the eight-man Jaguares pack had no trouble to push the Lions' seven-man scrum off the ball and towards the line - the referee awarding a penalty try in double-quick time. Sanchez's conversion gave the home team the lead for the first time - 24-22.
Another penalty - for playing a man after he kicked the ball - allowed Sanchez to stretch the lead to 27-22.
It got worse for the Lions when replacement Matias Alemanno powered over in the 65th minute and Sanchez added the conversion - 34-32.
The Lions were again reduced to 14 men - this time for the final five minutes - after lock Lourens Erasmus was penalised for deliberately collapsing the maul.
Yet, it was the Lions who enjoyed the better of the possession - as they looked to salvage a losing bonus point from the game.
However, the Lions could hardly get out their own 22 - the Jaguares holding on for the win.
Man of the match: Jaco van der Walt, Ross Cronje and Cyle Brink did themselves proud. Nicolas Sanchez was the Jaguares' general and scrumhalf Martin Landajo was the energy behind the pack. However, the power in the pack and our Man of the Match was Jaguares No.8 Facundo Isa.
For the Jaguares:
Tries: Isa, Penalty try, Alemanno
Cons: Sanchez 2
Pens: Sanchez 5
For the Lions:
Tries: Volmink 2, Mahuza
Cons: Van der Walt 2
Pen: Van der Walt
Yellow cards: Cyle Brink (Lions, 53 - cynical foul, playing the ball from an offside position), Lourens Erasmus (Lions, 75 - cynical play, collapsing the maul)
Jaguares: 15 Joaquín Tuculet, 14 Santiago Cordero, 13 Jerónimo de la Fuente, 12 Juan Martin Hernández, 11 Manuel Montero, 10 Nicolás Sánchez, 9 Martin Landajo (captain), 8 Facundo Isa, 7 Juan Manuel Leguizamón, 6 Javier Ortega Desio, 5 Tomás Lavanini, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Ramiro Herrera, 2 Julián Montoya, 1 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro.
Replacements: 16 Facundo Bosch, 17 Santiago Garcia Botta, 18 Enrique Pieretto, 19 Matias Alemanno, 20 Marcos Kremer, 21 Gonzalo Bertranou, 22 Santiago Gonzales Iglesias, 23 Matias Orlando.
Lions: 15 Sylvian Mahuza, 14 Koch Marx, 13 Nicolaas Hanekom, 12 Howard Mnisi, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Jaco van der Walt, 9 Ross Cronjé (captain), 8 Cyle Brink, 7 Robert Kruger, 6 Stef de Witt, 5 Lourens Erasmus, 4 Martin Muller, 3 Jacques van Rooyen, 2 Armand van der Merwe, 1 Corné Fourie.
Replacements 16 Ramone Samuels, 17 Clinton Theron, 18 Pieter Scholtz, 19 Fabian Booysen, 20 Ruaan Lerm, 21 Dillon Smit, 22 Jacques Nel, 23 Shaun Reynolds.
Referee: Rohan Hoffman
Assistant referees: Angus Gardner, Federico Anselmi
TMO: Santiago Borsani