at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
Lions (32) 38
Tries: Grant Hattingh, Derick Minnie, Lionel Mapoe, Deon van Rensburg. Conversions: Elton Jantjies (3). Penalties: Jantjies (4)
Sharks (11) 28
Tries: Lwazi Mvovo, JP Pietersen, Odwa Ndungane. Conversions:Pat Lambie (2). Penalties: Lambie (3)
NOW who would have predicted this… the competition’s poorest team beating Super Rugby’s hottest side going into the weekend? Well that’s what happens in South African derbies… and when one team is perhaps a little cocky and the other extremely angry.
Not many people gave the Lions a chance here last night, not after losing their 11 previous matches and the Sharks coming off a massive win over the Stormers, but it was the hosts who did the unthinkable – beat the form side in the competition.
They made it tough for themselves after romping to a 27-6 lead after half an hour, but they did it in the end, thanks to some passionate defending and a little luck.
As satisfying as the win will be for the Lions – and their fans – it will be as disappointing for the Sharks. They didn’t even manage to pick up a losing bonus point, managing three tries to the Lions’ four.
Their chances of now winning the SA Conference, ahead of the Bulls or Stormers, looks less likely, but we’ll have to wait for the competition to get under way again at the end of the month as Super Rugby now stands aside for the international window of Test matches.
It wasn’t always the best quality rugby produced last night but it was entertaining.
And it started as early as the fifth minute when Grant Hattingh went over under the posts after a brilliant kick into space by Elton Jantjies, and three minutes later it was the turn of Derick Minnie – with some help from the TMO – and by the midway stage of the first half the hosts were comfortably in charge, 17-3 up.
It was a combination of the Sharks being half asleep and out-of-sorts – was all their energy spent after the previous week’s effort against the Stormers? – and the Lions being switched on to what was in front of them.
Hurt by their poor showing overseas, the loss of key back Jaco Taute and Super Rugby relegation a distinct possibility, the Lions finally showed some anger, aggression and passion.
They not only beat the Sharks in the set-pieces and out-witted them at the breakdowns, they also played far smarter rugby.
With Tian Meyer on top of his game at scrumhalf and Jantjies and Butch James combining brilliantly at 10 and 12, the Lions backs played with pace and plenty of skill.
The clever kicks into space by Meyer, Jantjies and James were masterstrokes.
Playing with confidence, Lionel Mapoe scored his team’s third try after 25 minutes and, with five minutes to go to the break, the Lions were well set at 27-6 up.
Although a great wide pass by Frederik Michalak ended with Lwazi Mvovo going over and getting his team back in the contest, on the stroke of half time Lions right wing Deon van Rensburg got his team’s fourth try in the left corner.
Everything was going swimmingly for the hosts when the match restarted after the break, but before the Lions could settle down to business they lost concentration and conceded two converted tries, to JP Pietersen and Odwa Ndungane, for their lead to be cut by seven points.
The action didn’t let up for the rest of the half but there were not too many clear cut try-scoring chances after the initial burst by the Sharks… with Jantjies and Lambie contributing the other points via the boot. - Weekend Argus