The Lions’ unbeaten start in this year’s Super Rugby campaign ended when they were shocked 35-38 by a Blues team that simply doesn’t know the meaning of the word ‘quit’.
Handed a last-gasp lifeline in the form of a scrum in midfield, the New Zealanders exploited some meek tackling and a typical Sonny Bill Williams off-load to score the winning try with the last movement of a thriller at Ellis Park on Saturday night..
The Lions won’t have any excuses but will be sweating after captain and No 8 Warren Whiteley came off in the 22nd minute with a knee injury.
It was the type of blow that seemed to knock them out of their stride a bit.
While it was the Lions who took control and dominated most of the first half for a lead of 21-3 three minutes before the break, it was the Blues who scored just before the break to gain momentum and in the second half took the Lions out of their comfort zone.
That was telling.
Who was the star in this match?
He won’t take much solace from being on the losing side but Lions flyhalf Elton Jantjies is quickly regaining the form that has made him a match-winner for his team. He was involved in most of the Lions’ key movements, while he also scored the Lions’ third try just before the break and directing the play well.
Key moments and themes
- The Lions’ quick thinking resulted in their opening try after just two minutes scored by wing Sylvian Mahuza. After Sonny Bill Williams knocked on soon after the kickoff, the Lions won a penalty and Lions scrumhalf Ross Cronje tapped quickly to find Mahuza on the outside. In the 15th minute the hosts extended their lead after wing Aphiwe Dyantyi did superb work in broken play before Jantjies smartly put centre Rohan Janse van Rensburg into open space.
- Jantjies’ try came after the Lions forwards did all the donkey work with numerous phase play to break down the resilient Blues defence. It was the template that was working.
- But the turnaround was pronounced. By the end, the Blues had run a massive 994 metres, almost double that of the Lions, and crucially kept the home side pinned in their own half. As a result, the Lions had to make a massive 209 tackles, of which they eventually missed 32. That was all down to pressure and explained the four tries they conceded in the last 40 minutes.
- However, the Lions’ poor territory stat also pointed to an inability to get out of their half effectively. Some of their decision-making was far too aggressive when they could’ve slowed things down while it was also notable that they lost many balls in contact.
Lions – Tries: Sylvian Mahuza, Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Elton Jantjies, Aphiwe Dyantyi, Dylan Smith. Conversions: Jantjies (5).
Blues – Tries: Akira Ioane, Rieko Ioane (2), Jimmy Topou, Murphy Taramai. Conversions: Stephen Perofetsa (4), Bryn Gatland. Penalties: Gatland.