Sadly it was a step too far for the Lions as the fairytale finish for coach Johan Ackermann didn’t quite materialize.
The Crusaders beat them 25-17 in the Super Rugby final at Ellis Park in front of a disappointed 62 000 plus crowd on Saturday afternoon.
By the time the Lions scored their first try by hooker Malcolm Marx there were just 15 minutes left in the game and the Crusaders were holding on to a comfortable 22-3 advantage.
To their credit, the home side they fought like trojans late in the contest and actually managed to close the gap to just eight points, an impressive feat given that they played with only 14 men.
Leading 15-3 at the break, the Crusaders had to weather a strong initial onslaught of the Lions but then took control as the Lions lost their direction after flanker Kwagga Smith was red-carded two minutes before halftime for an aerial tackle on Crusaders fullback David Havili.
Who was the star in this match?
Unfortunately this award has to go to Crusaders No 8 and All Black skipper Kieran Read, who was a thorn in the Lions flesh with his awareness on defence and link play.
Key Moments of the Match
- The biggest moment of the match was undoubtedly the red card handed out to Lions flank Kwagga Smith in the 38th minute for challenging Crusaders fullback David Havili in the air. Though it appeared that Smith tried to get out of the way, he didn’t have a realistic chance of competing for the ball. As a result, it was his responsibility to bring Havili down. He didn’t and the rules stated that’s a red.
- While the Lions started the strong, vital errors led to various counterattacking opportunities for the Crusaders, who created massive scoreboard pressure by scoring two tries inside in the opening 12 minutes to lead 12-0 after first wing Seta Tamanivalu and then centre Jack Goodhue crossed the whitewash.
- The Lions’ inability to adapt in certain situations was never more evident when they had a valuable opportunity to close the gap to just 12-6 with six minutes to go in the first half. The penalty was within striking distance but they opted to go for touch, where there lineout drive was stopped by the Crusaders with the Lions penalised for killling the ball on the ground. In a final, you sometimes simply have to take the points and curb your natural game.
Lions: Tries: Malcolm Marx, Corne Fourie. Conversions: Jantjies (2). Penalty: Jantjies.
Crusaders: Tries: Seta Taminavalu, Jack Goodhue, Kieran Read. Conversions: Richie Mo’unga (2). Penalties: Mo’unga (2).