JOHANNESBURG – Rookie wing Madosh Tambwe was the big hero for the Lions after running in four tries as his team hit back in style after a difficult few weeks with a convincing Super Rugby win against the Stormers at Ellis Park on Saturday night.
The 20-year-old, who was born in Kinshasa and matriculated at Parktown Boys High just two years ago, produced one of the most memorable Super Rugby performances with a 13-minute hat trick, with a fourth try coming in the second half.
It helped the Lions erase a tough last month where they lost three out of four matches.
Another defeat against the Stormers on Saturday could have spelled the end of the Lions’ challenge, especially as they go on tour to Australasia next week for matches against the Waratahs, Reds, Highlanders and Hurricanes.
But Saturday’s win ensured they will enjoy a satisfying bye week before their trip, and boost their confidence ahead of those difficult challenges.
It was a masterclass from the Lions, who dominated proceedings from start to finish.
The result was a bad one for the Stormers, who at times looked all at sea and now have a mountain to climb if they’re going to be challengers later in the competition. Not only did Robbie Fleck’s team seem one-dimensional, they also gave the Lions plenty of free space to run in, and how their hosts punished them.
Tambwe opened his account as early as the 53rd second when he collected a ball that had been chipped into space by opposite No 10 Damian Willemse and ran all of 60 metres untouched to score.
It was a try that stunned the visitors, and eight minutes later, the 20-year-old wing was at it again.
On this occasion, he was in the right place at the right time to take a short pass and bust over from close range after the Lions had been stopped short from a driving maul.
And then in the 13th minute, his hat trick was secured when he collected a cross-field kick by Andries Coetzee to score after the Stormers had failed to clear their lines properly.
The Stormers finally got on the board in the 21st minute when Wilco Louw barged over from close after a quality period for the visitors.
But not long after that, Lionel Mapoe powered his way over the tryline on the blindside after Kwagga Smith had won a key turnover in the middle of the field.
Then, on the stroke of halftime, Smith went over to give his side a handy lead at the break.
The Lions were well and truly in control when the game resumed, even though the Stormers had done plenty of attacking in a busy first 40 minutes.
But it was the Lions who scored when it mattered, while the home team’s defence was again rock solid, as it was the week before against the Crusaders.
Pieter-Steph du Toit was a lone warrior for the Stormers, while Willemse tried hard to ignite his outside backs.
The Lions stretched their lead in the 46th minute when Franco Mostert finished off after Elton Jantjies broke through the first line of defence.
And then Tambwe produced some more magic to get his fourth – courtesy of another Jantjies special.
The Lions No 10 chipped the ball into space and it was brilliantly grabbed out of the air by Tambwe, almost out of the awaiting hands of Willemse.
And the wing ran in untouched for his fourth try.
The score was a virtual 14-point swing in favour of the hosts after Willemse had dropped the ball over the tryline just minutes earlier.
The young Stormers flyhalf though made up for his mistakes later on with a well-taken try, and replacement scrumhalf Paul de Wet also crossed.
But that was not before Lions wing Ruan Combrinck grabbed a try for his team on his return to action after several months out with injury.
At the death the Stormers were awarded a penalty try to give the scoreline some respectability.
But it was a day that belonged solely to the two-time runners-up, who showed they are far from being a spent force in Super Rugby.
Lions 52 – Tries: Madosh Tambwe (4), Lionel Mapoe, Kwagga Smith, Franco Mostert, Ruan Combrinck. Conversions: Elton Jantjies (6).
Stormers 31 – Tries: Wilco Louw, Damian Willemse, Paul de Wet, Penalty Try. Conversions: SP Marais (2), Willemse (1). Penalty: Marais (1).