Lions edge Sharks in titanic battle
SUPER RUGBY REPORT: The Lions edged the Sharks 34-29 in a thrilling and entertaining encounter at Ellis Park on Saturday.
The match was a great advertisement for South African rugby as both teams played with a tempo that left many fans breathless throughout the 80 minutes.
The win also extended the Lions lead at the top of their conference, which also includes Argentina's Jaguares.
The Sharks were the team on top in the opening 10 minutes and they took an early lead when Curwin Bosch converted a penalty in the third minute.
The Durban side's lead was then extended a few minutes later when Kobus van Wyk crashed through the Lions' defence before passing to Coenie Oosthuizen, who sprinted and stretched for the first try of the game. Bosch added the extras from the kicking tee for a 10-point lead after nine minutes.
After a brief spell in the Sharks' half, the Lions were able to get their first points of the game in the 14th minute when Elton Jantjies knocked over an easy penalty.
The visitors were the next score when Bosch converted a penalty from nearly 55 metres out to restore his team's 10-point lead at the 20-minute mark.
The Sharks continued to put the Lions under pressure and they nearly extended their lead with a try in the corner if it was not for a controversial TMO decision.
After Bosch hit the upright with a penalty kick, the Sharks turned over the ball before it was spread wide to Andre Esterhuizen, who went over in the corner.
However, the try was disallowed after the TMO deemed that a Sharks player had his arm around a Lions player's neck at the previous ruck.
Jantjies then brought the Lions a bit closer with a penalty in the 34 minute before Bosch landed a magnificent drop-goal three minutes later to cancel out Jantjies' strike.
The home side were then given a boost when Etienne Oosthuizen was yellow carded for dangerous play with seconds left in the first half.
The Lions opted for a line-out deep into the Sharks' 22 from that penalty and they were rewarded when Malcolm Marx dived over for a try after a powerful drive.
Jantjies converted the try and at half-time they were 13-16 behind.
The Lions started the second half like men possessed and they found themselves taking the lead for the first time in the game when wing Courtnall Skosan evaded a few Sharks defenders down the touchline to score his team's second try after 43 minutes.
Ten minutes later the Lions went further in front when fullback Andries Coetzee added three points with an awkward but effective drop-goal.
Despite the Lions dominating play in the opening exchanges in the second half, the Sharks still looked dangerous whenever they had ball and the visitors managed to level scores two minutes later when wing Kobus van Wyk scored in the corner after some great passing play from his teammates.
Bosch converted and the score read 23-23 with less than 25 minutes left in the game.
After being under pressure for a large period in the second 40, the Sharks then regained the lead in the 65th minute with a Bosch penalty. However, it did not last long with Jantjies levelling matters with a penalty of his own moments later.
Bosch would have another chance to regain the lead minutes later with another penalty, but with a distance of over 60 metres, many in the crowd were holding their breath.
However, the 19-year-old remarkably had the distance to give his team the three-point lead with 10 minutes left.
With the clock winding down, it was the Lions who would ultimately have the final say in terms of scoring when flank Jaco Kriel raced away for a try in the 76th minute, which was enough for the win in the end.
Man of the match: In an outstanding match there were a number of contenders. However, the award goes to Sharks flyhalf Curwin Bosch, who produced moments in the match we will not forget soon.
Tries: Marx, Skosan, Kriel
Cons: Jantjies 2
Pens: Jantjies 4
Tries: Oosthuizen, Van Wyk
Cons: Bosch 2
Pens: Bosch 4
Yellow Card: Etienne Oosthuizen (Sharks, 40 - dangerous play)
Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Madosh Tambwe, 13 Harold Vorster, 12 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Francois de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley (captain), 7 Ruan Ackermann, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Jacques van Rooyen.
Replacements: 16 Armand van der Merwe, 17 Corné Fourie, 18 Hencus van Wyk, 19 Lourens Erasmus, 20 Albertus Smith, 21 Ross Cronjé, 22 Jacques Nel, 23 Dillon Smit.
Sharks: 15 Garth April, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Lubabalo Mtembu (captain), 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Etienne Oosthuizen, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Mahlatse Ralepelle, 1 Thomas du Toit.
Replacements: 16 Franco Marais, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Stephan Lewies, 20 Jacques Vermeulen, 21 Michael Claassens, 22 Inny-Christian Radebe, 23 Jeremy Ward.
Referee: Jaco van Heerden (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Jaco Peyper (South Africa), AJ Jacobs (South Africa)
TMO: Johan Greeff (South Africa)