Lions (14) 24 - Tries: Vorster, Mapoe, Ackermann; Conversions: Jantjies (3); Penalty: Jantjies
Jaguares (7) 21 - Tries: Orlando, Baez, Petti; Conversions: Sanchez (3)
JOHANNESBURG – Not pretty and nothing to boast about, but a win is a win.
The Lions, unbeaten at Ellis Park in nine Super Rugby games and nearly a year before kick-off, were made to fight until the very last second on Friday night to make it 10 wins in a row as the Jaguares gave them an almighty fright.
But Ruan Ackermann scored a converted try with nine minutes to go to level the scores at 21-all after the home team had been put on the back foot throughout a poor second half. Elton Jantjies then slotted a penalty from the sidelines with two minutes to go to help Johan Ackermann’s men stay on the right course.
The only side still to have beaten the Lions this season are the Jaguares, who got the better of them in Buenos Aires at the beginning of last month.
Ackermann’s men will now head to Australia with seven wins from eight games, but they will know they will have to lift their standards again after being put under enormous pressure by the men from Argentin, who really did not deserve to lose.
The visitors showed their intent from the start, and were rewarded for some excellent play, when centre Matias Orlando shocked the home crowd with a try after just four minutes. The Lions though dusted off the cobwebs and were soon in control of the contest, thanks largely to the midfield pairing who scored tries before the clock had hit the 20 minute mark.
First Harold Vorster, like he’d done against the Stormers last weekend, ran an excellent line to score his second try in a week and then Lionel Mapoe showed great strength and stepping skills to burst past several Jaguares defenders to help his side into a 14-7 lead.
There was not much between the teams though; both struggled to hang onto the ball for long periods and ill-discipline let them down on a good number of occasions. It was a bit of a messy affair all-round, and not the kind of performance fans have come to expect of the Lions – especially at home.
The Jaguares though, knowing they had gotten the better of the Lions in the last two meetings between the teams – albeit in Buenos Aires on both occasions and against weakened Lions teams – grew in confidence as the contest went on and when flank Rodrigo Baez scored his team’s second try soon after half-time to help level the scores the visitors really got pumped up.
And it got a whole lot better for them from the restart when the Lions coughed up the ball and the Jaguares took it through several phases, before lock Guido Petti crashed over; the conversion by Nicolas Sanchez putting the visitors into a surprising 21-14 lead.
And if that wasn’t bad enough for a Lions team that hadn’t been troubled at home in nearly a year, they lost Vorster to the sin bin after he was pinged for slowing the ball down, but Sanchez missed the penalty that would have put his team in front.
A raft of changes were then made to the home team and with nine minutes to go the never-say-die Lions scored a third try, by Ackermann, after a quality attack from deep in their own half. Elton Jantjies’ conversion locked up the scores at 21-21.
Then it was Jantjies’ turn to step forward and slot the crucial late penalty with two minutes to go to seal the victory.
The Lions leave for their three-match tour of Australia on Saturday.