Lions bat­tle to over­come Sharks

CityPress - - Sport - SIMNIKIWE XABANISA sports@city­

An un­char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally off-tar­get Lions needed a long-dis­tance, last­gasp penalty by Ruan Com­brinck to over­come a stub­born Sharks team in their Su­per Rugby quar­ter­fi­nal, book­ing them­selves a place in the last four by the skin of their teeth.

Clearly miss­ing the calm in­flu­ence of in­jured cap­tain War­ren White­ley, the Lions had most of the pos­ses­sion, but sim­ply couldn’t do much with it thanks to an er­ror-strewn per­for­mance and a Sharks team that came pre­pared.

With the Lions look­ing to at­tack at every op­por­tu­nity and the Sharks seek­ing to play counter-at­tack­ing rugby, the pat­tern was set: the hosts wanted to treat this as any other Su­per Rugby game and the vis­i­tors came out to play fi­nals rugby.

The Lions were all over the Sharks in the first 10 min­utes of the game, thanks to a su­pe­rior scrum, a func­tional line-out and some dy­namic run­ning with the ball.

But, with the Sharks us­ing a rush de­fence, the hosts lost their ac­cu­racy and started rush­ing their play and made mis­takes at cru­cial times.

Both sides had their prob­lems in con­tact, with the Lions cough­ing up pos­ses­sion and the Sharks turn­ing it over by hold­ing on to it on the ground.

But af­ter much work in that time, all the hosts had to show on the score­board for be­ing markedly su­pe­rior was a penalty by El­ton Jan­tjies.

Con­trast that with the Sharks, whose de­fence en­abled them to build a bak­ery from the crumbs of pos­ses­sion they had.

By al­most al­ways be­ing first to the loose ball and be­ing on the look­out for an off­load in con­tact by the hosts, they were lead­ing the game 14-3 at half-time through an in­ter­cept try, two penal­ties and a dropped goal by Cur­win Bosch. The try, by winger Kobus van Wyk, was a case in point of the Lions’ lais­sez-faire ap­proach.

Af­ter an un­nec­es­sary quick line-out by full­back An­dries Coet­zee, the un­der­pres­sure Li­onel Mapoe and Jan­tjies still tried to off­load in­stead of set­ting the ball up, giv­ing up the in­ter­cept for Van Wyk to score his sec­ond gift try against them in two suc­ces­sive week­ends.

The two sides’ ap­proach to the game was best typ­i­fied by the op­pos­ing fly halves, Jan­tjies and Bosch.

Jan­tjies made every mis­take a fly half shouldn’t in a knock­out game: spurn­ing 10 points via two missed penal­ties and con­ver­sions, restart­ing out on the full and mak­ing the in­ter­cept pass that gave the Sharks their first try.

By con­trast, Bosch missed just one of his kicks at goal and was al­ways look­ing for a drop goal op­por­tu­nity.

But the Lions were given their way back into the game through Stephan Lewies’ sin-bin­ning for team in­fringe­ments – a pe­riod that saw them score their first two tries of the game, through Franco Mostert and cap­tain Jaco Kriel.

Mostert, too, re­paid the favour by get­ting yel­low-carded for col­laps­ing the maul, a pe­riod that meant a Sharks try by eighth man Daniel du Preez to put the vis­i­tors in the lead go­ing into the last 10 min­utes.

But then came Com­brinck and his hero­ics, and the Lions se­cured a home semi­fi­nal against the Hur­ri­canes.


IN TROU­BLE Harold Vorster of the Lions is tack­led by the Sharks’ Stephan Lewies and Eti­enne Oosthuizen dur­ing their Su­per Rugby quar­ter­fi­nal yes­ter­day

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