Lions demolish woeful Sunwolves
In a day of great rugby, Japan fails as locals run riot on the scoreboard at Ellis Park, while, in Bloemfontein, the Stormers outplay hapless Cheetahs
The Lions produced a master class of attacking rugby last night as they demolished the Sunwolves, finishing on 947 at Ellis Park. As expected, this was a one-sided affair and the Lions were in control of proceedings from start to finish – they eventually outscored their hapless visitors by 14 tries to one.
The win consolidates the Lions’ position at the top of the Africa Conference 2 standings, where they are 19 points clear of their nearest rivals, the Sharks, while the Sunwolves are still languishing at the bottom of the Africa Conference 1 table, with just one victory from 13 matches.
Meanwhile, a revamped Stormers team won what started as a loose game against the Cheetahs and finished a touch on the ill-tempered side to cement their lead in the Super Rugby Africa Conference 1.
The visitors outscored the hosts by six tries to four in a game in which both sides had their lapses in concentration, defence and discipline, with a card count of five by the end of the game.
The two red cards – to flankers Rynhardt Elstadt and Henco Venter – were for an elbowing clash at the conclusion of the game, the latter a straight sending off for striking and the former a yellow for retaliating, meaning Elstadt was also sent off because it was his second caution.
A sign of how the Cheetahs were not at the races at the beginning of the match is how the Stormers, who were essentially disjointed from the changes they’d made, scored pretty much at will in the first half.
The Cape Town side had rested Springboks Siya Kolisi and Eben Etzebeth going into the match, and had given SA Under-20 player Damian Willemse his first start at fly half. The knock-on effect was that fullback SP Marais was in charge of the goal kicking. But when he was hobbled by a knee injury in the 17th minute, winger Dillyn Leyds was moved to fullback and the kicking duties were passed on to winger Cheslin Kolbe.
Yet with Leyds and rookie Willemse sharing the standoff duties, the Cheetahs still conceded points at regular intervals. This was thanks largely to a leaky defence, illdiscipline and sloppy mistakes with ball in hand.
Fly half Niel Marais’ sin-binning in the 26th minute meant points conceded, while fullback Clayton Blommetjies gifted replacement Seabelo Senatla his try with a no-look reverse pass that found him perfectly.
During that time, Kolbe – enjoying his newfound kicking responsibilities – cashed in by raking in the points. As ever, he was alert and razor sharp with his finishing, and grabbed a hat-trick of tries.
Where he surprised was how reliable he was with the boot, missing just one of his five conversion attempts for a points haul of 25 from the match.
But the Stormers would respond in kind to the Cheetahs’ largesse by also playing fast and loose in the second half. First they followed flanker Elstadt’s late sinbinning in the first half with another by Pieter-Steph du Toit for a high tackle in the 55th minute, which opened the door for the Cheetahs.
With Du Toit languishing in the cooler, Clinton Swart displayed incredible strength in scoring the first of two tries while the hosts had a man up on the visitors, with Bok winger Raymond Rhule the beneficiary of a wonderful solo run by his captain Francois Venter.
Suddenly the Cheetahs had clawed themselves into a one-point lead, but the Stormers tightened their game up just long enough in the last 10 minutes with a try by replacement Sikhumbuzo Notshe.
NOWHERE TO RUN Sylvian Mahuza of the Lions is tackled by Takaaki Nakazuru of the Sunwolves during their Super Rugby match in Johannesburg yesterday