The Lions came to life in the second half as they registered a hard-fought yet comfortable win against the Sunwolves in a round six Super Rugby match in Singapore on Saturday.
With several first choice players missing from the Lions lineup because of injuries, the young and largely inexperienced team battled to settle, but once they did they had far too much fire-power for their opponents.
In all, the Lions scored six tries to the three by the Sunwolves, who heard on Friday they would not be part of the Super Rugby competition post the 2020 version. The competition will revert to a 14-team round-robin format from 2021, with the Sunwolves, who only joined Super Rugby four years ago, axed.
Lions stand-in captain Malcolm Marx was one of his team’s big heroes on Saturday. The hooker was back to his best in all departments – he scored two first half tries after hitting his lineout targets and finishing off driving mauls, and also won his side a few crucial breakdown penalties.
In a stop-start first half, the Sunwolves were first on the board when they were awarded a penalty try after Lions wing Sylvian Mahuza was adjudged to have deliberately knocked the ball down when the home team had a one-man overlap and looked to be headed for a try in the corner. The action resulted in Mahuza getting sin-binned for 10 minutes.
It mattered little though as Marx pounced for his first try six minutes later and then he again crossed the tryline three minutes before half-time.
Home team flyhalf Hayden Parker then slotted a 43rd minute penalty to close the gap to two points, but the Lions quickly got on top of the error-strewn Sunwolves when Nic Groom darted over the line after a Lions driving maul was stopped on its way towards the tryline.
The Lions were at this stage in charge of proceedings and two further tries in quick succession by Elton Jantjies and Lionel Mapoe saw the visitors stretch their lead to 29-10. The introduction from the bench of the fit-again Aphiwe Dyantyi played a big part in Mapoe’s try as the Springbok winger ran a perfect line to carve the Sunwolves defence in two and his off-load to Groom was perfectly timed as he in turn fed Mapoe, who dived over for the biggest highlight of the match.
The plucky Sunwolves never stopped playing though and they scored their first proper try in the 65th minute through No 8 Warren Vosayaco, who would cross the tryline again in the final minutes. In between though the Lions scored their sixth try through replacement loose-forward Hacjivah Dayimani, who gathered the ball after Dyantyi’s chip kick into space when there was nothing else on in an attack inside the Sunwolves’ 22m area.
The Lions were far from perfect and battled to assert themselves, but they were never on the back foot and dominated the set-pieces and most breakdowns. Coach Swys de Bruin will be pleased the trip to Singapore is over with his team getting a W behind their names as their hosts have scared a number of teams on home soil – and even away, when they beat the Chiefs in Hamilton - this year.
The Lions will now enjoy a bye week before turning their attention to the visit by the Sharks and their three-week tour of New Zealand next month.
Sunwolves (7) 24
Tries: Penalty try, Vosayaco (2); Conversions: Parker (2); Penalty: Parker
Lions (12) 37
Tries: Marx (2), Groom, Jantjies, Mapoe, Dayimani; Conversions: Jantjies (2); Penalty: Jantjies