VIDEO: Lions stay in the hunt
SUPER RUGBY REPORT: The Lions stayed in the race for the play-offs with a hard-earned 38-29 win over the Highlanders at Ellis Park on Saturday.
The teams scored five tries each, but the boot of Elton Jantjies – five conversions and a penalty – saw the Lions edge clear against a Highlanders team that landed just two of their five kicks at goal.
The win saw the Lions move into the top six on the standings, with just four rounds remaining.
It is also the Lions’ second win over New Zealand opposition this year – after their 23-17 win over the Chiefs in Hamilton, New Zealand, last month.
Highlanders dropped one place to eighth after surrendering a four-match unbeaten run at the start of a tour that also includes a match against the Stormers in Cape Town.
Despite the try-fest and the closeness of the score, it was a match that never caught fire on a warm afternoon as there were too many handling and other errors by both teams.
The lukewarm post-match reaction of Lions hooker Malcolm Marx – deputising as skipper for injured No. 8 Warren Whiteley – confirmed that there was little to celebrate.
“After a lot of endeavour from both teams, the match was decided in the final five minutes. Highlanders pushed us all the way,” said the Springbok.
“Some of my line-out throws were wayward and I must take those errors on the chin, study the video of the match and improve.”
The lead changed three times in a four-try first half – which ended with the Lions leading 14-12, because Elton Jantjies slotted both conversions while rival flyhalf Josh Ioane missed one.
Loose forward Albertus Smith scored his second try to stretch the lead to nine points before the Dunedin outfit hit back with wing Jordan Hyland and full-back Matt Faddes scoring.
Although substitute back Dan Hollinshead failed to convert either try, the Highlanders led 22-21 with a quarter of the match remaining.
Jantjies kicked the only penalty of the match to regain the lead for the hosts. Tries by substitute Shaun Reynolds and Ioane meant only two points separated the sides on 75 minutes.
Highlanders had chances to snatch victory before Aphiwe Dyantyi showed the form that made him a Springbok regular last season and Skosan applied the finishing touch.
Man of the match: The Highlanders forwards produced a workmanlike performance – with Dillon Hunt, Luke Whitelock and Liam Coltman top of the list. Aaron Smith, Rob Thompson and Matt Faddes were their most productive backs. Harold Vorster was the Lions. most productive backline player, while Stephan Lewies and Malcolm Marx had standout performances among the forwards. Our award goes to Lions loose forward Albertus Smith – who not only scored two tries, one in each half, had numerous carries, made plenty of metres, beat five defenders, made his tackles and won a turnover.
For the Lions:
Tries: Coetzee, Smith 2, Reynolds, Skosan
Cons: Jantjies 5
For the Highlanders:
Tries: Tomkinson, Walden, Hyland, Faddes, Ioane
Cons: Ioane, Hollinshead
RECAP: Lions v Highlanders
Did you miss any of the action? Recap all the drama here!
Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee; 14 Courtnall Skosan, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi; 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronje; 8 Kwagga Smith, 7 Cyle Brink, 6 Marnus Schoeman, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Stephan Lewies, 3 Carlu Sadie, 2 Malcolm Marx (Captain), 1 Dylan Smith.
Replacements: 16 Jan-Henning Campher, 17 Sti Sithole, 18 Johannes Jonker, 19 Vincent Tshituka, 20 Hacjivah Dayimani, 21 Nic Groom, 22 Shaun Reynolds, 23 Tyrone Green.
Highlanders: 15 Matt Faddes, 14 Jordan Hyland, 13 Rob Thompson, 12 Teihorangi Walden, 11 Patelesio Tomkinson, 10 Josh Ioane, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Shannon Frizell, 7 Dillon Hunt, 6 Luke Whitelock (captain), 5 Tom Franklin, 4 Josh Dickson, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Ayden Johnstone.
Replacements: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Daniel Lienert-Brown, 18 Siate Tokolahi, 19 Jack Whetton, 20 James Lentjes, 21 Kayne Hammington, 22 Daniel Hollinshead, 23 Waisake Naholo.
Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Jaco Peyper (South Africa), Griffin Colby (South Africa)
TMO: Willie Vos (South Africa)