The Lions suffered their third defeat of this year’s Super Rugby campaign when they went down 14-8 to the Crusaders at Ellis Park on Sunday afternoon.
In a game where both sides defended superbly at different stages, it was the Crusaders’ ability to puncture the hosts’ defensive line twice that proved to be the difference in a brutal and tightly contested affair.
Some concerted attacking play late in the second half led to a penalty, which Lions flyhalf Elton Jantjies kicked in the 77th minute to at least ensure the Lions a bonus point to maintain their second position on the overall log.
Starved of quality ball in the first half, the Lions seemed to have fixed most of the cracks in their defence while their scrum was impressive in winning at least four penalties as Lions tighthead Ruan Dreyer had the Crusaders’ Tim Perry under the cosh.
But the Crusaders scored a quick 14 points in the first 12 minutes of the second half to take control as the Lions had to start playing the catch-up.
As soon as the Lions had Dreyer replaced by Jacobie Adriaanse and the Crusaders brought on Wyatt Crockett, the hosts started to struggle in the scrums and it seemed to have a ripple effect on the rest of their game.
Who was the star in this match?
Crusaders flank Matt Todd was a real menace on the ground and mention should be made of the defensive efforts of flank Cyle Brink and No 8 Hacjivah Dayimani. But, as is custom, the workrate and physical presence at the collisions of powerful Lions hooker Malcolm Marx was immense. There seems be no stopping this machine.
Key moments and themes
- The Lions striked the first blow of the first half, which turned out to be the only points of the half, when left-wing Madosh Tambwe scored in the 13th minute after the ball was beautifully put through the hands of centre Lionel Mapoe and Marx .
- The Crusaders would have been left frustrated after two potential tries by No 11 George Bridge in the 20th and 24th minutes were disallowed by referee Jaco Peyper for marginal forward passes. Boasting 71% territory and 62% possession in the first half, the Crusaders were truly stifled by a great Lions defensive effort.
- But the Lions’ inability to score points without the ball – it’s a major weakness in terms of their game-plan -meant the Crusaders’ pressure started to count. They scored two quick tries after the break to take control. Captain Sam Whitelock scored their first in the 49th minute and three minutes later it was the turn of centre Jack Goodhue to dot down after replacement back Manasa Mataele broke the Lions defence in the middle.
- There was controversy when Bridge took out Lions replacement flank Marnus Schoeman in the air and around the neck in the 77th minute. Strangely, Peyper viewed it as only a penalty offence. It was a poor decision from him and received a big boo from the 15 002-strong crowd.
Lions – Try: Madosh Tambwe. Penalty: Elton Jantjies.
Crusaders – Tries: Sam Whitelock, Jack Goodhue. Conversions: Mitchell Hunt (2).