Lions still South Africa's best

Sat, 03 Mar 2018 15:00

SUPER RUGBY REPORT WITH HIGHLIGHTS: The Lions' domination of South African rugby continues - as they have now gone 20 games and almost three years without defeat against their compatriots.

There were pundits who suggested the new-look Bulls could end the Lions' run.

However, despite the spirited and entertaining efforts of the Bulls, the Lions ran out 49-35 winners - a bonus-point victory that puts them back at the top of the standings.

If what happened in Durban earlier in the day was flat beer, this was sparkling wine - fragrant and fitting a joyous occasion.

There was so much skill on display at Loftus and such intense zeal.

The Lions were the better side, but the Bulls did not hold back at all. And this week they had twice the crowd they had last week when they beat the Hurricane,s and they will be hoping for twice as many again when the Stormers come to play on 31 March 2018. A packed Loftus has ever been a wonderful experience.

There was a lot of scoring - 84 points in all, and the difference between the two teams was the 14 points the Lions scored when the Bulls were down to 13 men because of sin-binnings.

When replacement players, Conraad van Vuuren and Nic de Jager, were yellow-carded within a minute of each other, the score was 28-21 to the Lions. When they returned the score was 42-21, but, bless the Bulls, they played to the end and their last score was the most spectacular of the day as Travis Ismaiel sped from his own 22 to score under the posts.

It was a match of many rugby virtues.

One interesting facet of the scoring was the part forwards played. The Lions scored seven tries, the first five maul related as they took the Bulls on up front where they are expected to be strongest. Having five line-outs five metres from the Bulls' goal-line leant itself to such ambition. On the other hand, four of the five Bulls' tries were scored by backs.

The Lions kicked off and appeared calm while the Bulls were more energetic and made their way into Lions territory. When Cyle Brink was penalised at a tackle, Marnitz Boshoff, playing flyhalf while Handré Pollard was inside centre, goaled. 3-0 after 5 minutes.

Then the Lions did Lion things. Ross Cronje counterattacked and Elton Jantjies kicked a diagonal pass to Aphiwe Dyantyi. A scrum gave the Lions a free kick. Warren Whiteley tapped and charged. The Bulls did not get back and that gave the Lions another free kick 10 metres nearer the Bulls' line The Lions opted for a scrum, and Bulls were penalised at the scrum. The Lions kicked out, mauled and scored. That sounds simple; it was. Ruan Dreyer was credited with the try, Jantjies converted and the Lions led 7-3 after 14 minutes.

Their next penalty gave them a line-out 12 metres from the Bulls' line. The Lions mauled and scored. Jacques van Rooyen grounded the ball and the score was 14-3 to the Lions after 18 minutes.

The Bulls seemed to have no idea of how to counter an advancing maul. After all, it was supposed to be their weapon. In the second half, the Bulls coped far better with the mauls against them.

Two more penalties by Boshoff brought the score to 14-9 after 27 minutes and then Jantjies created a delicate try.

The visitors attacked and were going right when, with his left foot, Jantjies dabbed a grubber into the empty in-goal and lock Marvin Orie had the joy of grounding the ball first, as the TMO confirmed. 21-9 after 32 minutes.

When Dyantyi could not cope with a high kick, the Bulls got the ball on their right. Pollard kicked a long diagonal kick to the left where Johnny Kotze grabbed the bouncing ball and scored in the left corner. 21-14 after 35 minutes, the half-time score.

The second half started with a huge surprise. The Bulls kicked off, Travis Ismaiel tackled Andries Coetzee. The ball came back to Cronje who tried to go blind, but André Warner cut him down and Cronje lost the ball. Pollard snapped up the ball and ran straight to the corner and scored. Boshoff converted from touch and the score was 21-all after 41 minutes.

When Jantjies brilliantly kicked a penalty out five metres from the Bulls' line. Malcolm Marx threw in to Francois Mostert and the Lions formed a maul. But things changed after that as the Bulls shoved them back as they did at the next five-metre line-out as well. For the next one the Lions changed their point of attack and Marx scored the try. The Lions were back in front at 28-21 after 51 minutes.

Then the nature of the game changed, as Van Vuuren was sent to the sin-bin. The Bulls had by then conceded seven penalties and the referee had told Pollard that he would up the ante at the next one who infringed, and that was prop Van Vuuren. 

The Lions kicked out for a maul six metres from the Bulls' line. They had it rumbling to the line when it was collapsed. The referee awarded a penalty try and De Jager went off to the sin bin, leaving the Bulls with just 13 players and the score 35-21.

Rohan Janse van Rensburg broke down the midfield and Lions went wide right to Sylvian Mahuza who raced around Warwick Gelant and scored at the posts. 42-21 after 55 minutes.

The Bulls battled bravely on for the next nine minutes till the two penitents returned. They then attacked the Lions' line and had a series of three five-metre line-outs. But at the third tall Lourens Erasmus won the ball for the Lions and they cleared. Instead, it was a line-out that gave the Lions their last score.

On the Bulls' 10-metre line, they threw to the back. Whiteley backpedalled, caught the ball and, in the air, flipped it back to Cronje who got away and scored a try. 49-21 with 9 minutes to play.

The Bulls bashed at the Lions' line but the visitors defended with desperate zeal as if defeat with imminent. Dyantyi tackled Smith into touch at the corner flag, but still, the Bulls charged and this time burly Lizo Gqoboka plunged over for a try which Francois Brummer, a late inclusion, converted. 49-28 with 3 minutes to play.

From the kick-off, Marco van Staden started the Bulls running from their own line. They went wide right where Kotze gave Ismaiel a pass on the 22, and the big wing went speeding downfield, swinging infield and over under the posts for a sensational try. That made the final score 49-35.

Man of the Match: For the Bulls, there were good performances from Handré Pollard, Roelf Smit and Johnny Kotze, who may just have had his best game for the Bulls so far. For the Lions, there were telling performances from several players - Warren Whiteley, Andries Coetzee. Elton Jantjies, Jacques van Rooyen and our choice, Malcolm Marx, much, much more than just a hooker.

The scorers:

For the Bulls:
 Kotze, Pollard, Gqoboka, Ismaiel
Cons: Boshoff, Brummer 2
Pens: Boshoff 3

For the Lions:
 Dreyer, Van Rooyen, Orie, Marx, Penalty try, Mahuza, Cronje
Cons: Jantjies 6; penalty tries don't require a conversion, it is a seven-point try

Yellow cards: Conraad van Vuuren (Bulls, 53 - repeated infringements, offside), Nic de Jager (Bulls, 54 - cynical foul, collapsing the maul)


Bulls: 15 Divan Rossouw, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Handré Pollard (captain), 11 Johnny Kotze, 10 Marnitz Boshoff, 9 Andre Warner, 8 Hanro Liebenberg, 7 Thembelani Bholi, 6 Roelof Smit, 5 Lodewyk de Jager, 4 Rudolph Snyman, 3 Frans van Wyk, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Pierre Schoeman.
Replacements: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Lizo Gqoboka, 18 Conraad van Vuuren, 19 Nic de Jager, 20 Marco van Staden, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Francois Brummer, 23 Warrick Gelant

Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Sylvian Mahuza, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Warren Whiteley (captain), 7 Francois Mostert, 6 Cyle Brink, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Jacques Van Rooyen.
Replacements: 16 Robbie Coetzee, 17 Dylan Smith, 18 Jacobus Adriaanse, 19 Lourens Erasmus, 20 Marnus Schoeman, 21 Marco Jansen Van Vuren, 22 Harold Vorster, 23 Madosh Tambwe.

Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Rasta Rasivhenge (South Africa), Stephen Geldenhuys (South Africa)
TMO: Christie du Preez (South Africa)

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Sunwolves v Chiefs 04h15 Tokyo
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Kings v Treviso 13h00 Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium
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Leicester Tigers v Wasps 15h00 Welford Road
Fri, 30 March 2018
Chiefs v Highlanders 06h35 Hamilton
Rebels v Hurricanes 08h45 Melbourne
Fri, 23 March 2018
Rebels v Sharks 46 | 14
Crusaders v Bulls 34 | 14
Mon, 19 March 2018
Wits v NWU-Pukke 31 | 35
CUT-Ixias v UCT-Ikeys 23 | 30
UP-Tuks v UJ 30 | 30
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Sun, 18 March 2018
Waratahs v Rebels 51 | 27
Sat, 17 March 2018
Jaguares v Reds 7 | 18
Wales v France 14 | 13
Lions v Sunwolves 40 | 38
England v Ireland 15 | 24
Stormers v Blues 37 | 20
Italy v Scotland 27 | 29
Brumbies v Sharks 24 | 17
Highlanders v Crusaders 25 | 17
Pool AU
Team P W D L Pts
Rebels 5 4 0 1 20
Reds 4 3 0 1 12
Waratahs 4 2 1 1 10
Brumbies 4 2 0 2 8
Sunwolves 4 0 0 4 2
Pool NZ
Team P W D L Pts
Crusaders 5 3 0 2 15
Highlanders 3 3 0 0 13
Hurricanes 3 2 0 1 10
Chiefs 3 2 0 1 8
Blues 4 1 0 3 6
Pool SA
Team P W D L Pts
Lions 5 4 0 1 19
Stormers 5 2 0 3 9
Sharks 5 1 1 5 9
Bulls 5 1 0 4 5
Jaguares 4 1 0 3 4