Lions face big New Zealand test

Townsville Bulletin - - SPORT -

LEAD­ING con­tenders the Golden Lions and Can­ter­bury Cru­saders are one game away from play­ing off for this sea­son’s Su­per Rugby ti­tle af­ter con­trast­ing vic­to­ries over the week­end.

South Africa’s Lions, who fin­ished top of the reg­u­lar sea­son stand­ings, needed a huge late penalty goal from Ruan Com­brinck to scrape home 23- 21 over the Coastal Sharks in Jo­han­nes­burg.

The Lions will face a New Zealand team for the first time this sea­son, against de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons Welling­ton Hur­ri­canes, in next week­end’s semi- fi­nals.

If the Lions win they will host the fi­nal on Au­gust 5.

The Cru­saders, bid­ding for their eighth Su­per Rugby crown, ground out a 17- 0 win over the High­landers in driv­ing rain and man­aged to reach the last four.

The Cru­saders have to ne­go­ti­ate an all- New Zealand semi- fi­nal against the Chiefs to ad­vance to the fi­nal.

Shaun Steven­son scored a try four min­utes from time to seal a 17- 11 win for the Chiefs over South Africa’s West­ern Storm­ers in Cape Town to claim their semi- fi­nal spot.

The Lions, beaten only once this sea­son, were fac­ing a shock elim­i­na­tion at El­lis Park un­til Com­brinck landed an an­gled 58- me­tre kick un­der mas­sive pres­sure to squeeze home over the Sharks.

The Sharks, dis­missed as no­hop­ers af­ter a 17- point reg­u­lar- sea­son home loss to the Lions the pre­vi­ous week­end, built a 14- 3 half­time lead and were one point ahead when Com­brinck struck.

The Cru­saders scored two tries in wild weather to over­come the High­landers in the South Is­land derby.

“It was hugely sat­is­fy­ing,” coach Scott Robert­son said.

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