JOHANNESBURG – The Lions combined attacking flair and excellent defence to edge the Stormers 41-22 in a thrilling round 16 Super Rugby match at Ellis Park on Saturday.
The win – the Lions’ eighth this year – keeps alive their chances of playing in the quarter-finals in three weeks time after moving up to second spot in the SA Conference.
It was their first win against local opposition this season, having previously lost four times to South African teams. The Stormers are fifth in the conference.
After a tight first half, which the Lions just edged, but should have been further ahead, the game burst into life in a thrilling second 40 minutes.
The Stormers started and finished the half well, but in between, it was all Lions.
After keeping the visitors out in the early stages, the Lions settled and scored their first try through the impressive Kwagga Smith after 10 minutes.
He wriggled his way through a hole after his team had won a lineout close to the Stormers line.
The home team could easily have been two tries to the good, but for a try-saving tackle by Damian de Allende on Aphiwe Dyantyi, after the winger broke away and looked set to reach the tryline.
By the midway mark of the first half, the home team were very much the side in charge, with the forwards especially good.
Besides Smith, Vincent Tshituka, Malcolm Marx and the props Carlu Sadie and Dylan Smith enjoyed a good outing.
But despite the Lions’ strong showing and keeping the Stormers pegged in their own half, they failed to convert their pressure into points.
In the 24th minute, they butchered a second good chance when Smith, who’d taken a smart pass from Marx on the touchline and kicked the ball ahead, failed to gather it on the tryline.
They were left to kick a penalty through stand-in No 10 Shaun Reynolds to go 8-0 up and not long after the Stormers got on the board through a penalty, too.
But from the restart, Andries Coetzee scored after showing great determination to power his way past a few Stormers defenders.
And then on the stroke of halftime, the Stormers got their first try when flank Johan du Toit – playing in the place of his injured brother Pieter-Steph – went over.
The home team’s dominance told after the halftime break when they deservedly powered into a commanding lead through converted tries by Smith, his second, and wing Courtnall Skosan, who finished off after some slick handling by teammates Tshituka and Mapoe.
With the try-fest in full swing, the Stormers responded with a try of their own, scored by the impressive scrumhalf Herschel Jantjies.
But before the visitors had finished celebrating, the Lions got their fifth try, by Dyantyi, whose pace on the wing left the Stormers defenders clutching at air.
At 34-17, up the Lions were in total control.
Josh Stander pulled a try back for the men from the Cape, and while they spent the next 10 minutes camped on the Lions tryline in search of further points, the home team’s defences stood firm.
They then won back possession and there was time for a sixth try, by replacement Hacjivah Dayimani, to seal a thrilling win for the hosts.
Lions 41 – Tries: Kwagga Smith (2), Andries Coetzee, Courtnall Skosan, Aphiwe Dyantyi, Hacjivah Dayimani. Conversions: Shaun Reynolds (4). Penalty: Reynolds (1)
Stormers 22 – Tries: Johan du Toit, Herschel Jantjies, Josh Stander. Conversions: Stander (2). Penalty: Stander (1).@jacq_west