Craig Lewis

Lions survive Sunwolves scare

Malcolm Marx scores for the Lions Malcolm Marx scores for the Lions

The Lions required two tries in the final quarter to claim an unconvincing 40-38 win over the Sunwolves at Ellis Park on Saturday. CRAIG LEWIS reports.

In many ways, this contest bore several similarities to Japan’s historic victory over the Springboks at the 2015 World Cup, with the Sunwolves threatening to cause a massive upset.

Consider for a moment that the team from Japan led 31-26 after an hour of proceedings, before the Lions eventually managed to clinch the desired result after Malcolm Marx and Rohan Janse van Rensburg dotted down to finally kill off the Sunwolves’ gallant challenge.

Although the Lions emerged as expected winners in the end, the nature of this unconvincing result will do little for their confidence – particularly following last weekend’s loss to the Blues – while they also failed to pick up a bonus point.

At half-time, very few observers would have been able to believe that the Lions led by just two points against an unheralded Sunwolves side that suffered a 94-7 thrashing the last time these two teams met.

However, the Lions proved to be their own worst enemies as they persisted with a fast and loose approach, but failed to match that with the sort of ball-in-hand precision that has been so regularly associated with their play over the past two seasons.

As poor as the Lions were in the first 40 minutes, credit should also go to the Sunwolves, who produced a performance filled with character and gumption. They particularly impressed with their maul defence.

In the 26th minute, the Lions had moved into a 29-10 lead after a try to Marx added to earlier efforts from Andries Coetzee and Marvin Orie, but it would be the Sunwolves who ended the half with all the momentum on their side.

New Zealand-born Craig Millar finished off a try on the half-hour mark that cut the deficit to just two points, and by the time the interval arrived, it was clear that the Lions were the side desperately welcoming the opportunity to regain some composure.

As it turned out, the Lions made the perfect start to the second half when Aphiwe Dyantyi scored a charge-down try from the kick-off, but the Sunwolves still gallantly refused to capitulate as wing Hosea Saumaki next went over for a superb solo try.

The possibility of a shock upset threatened to become a reality when Kazuki Himeno scored an intercept try just before the hour mark to put the visitors into a five-point lead.

However, the tries to Marx and Janse van Rensburg eventually settled the nerves for the hosts, although there would be a most deserved consolation try for the Sunwolves when Atsushi Sakate dotted down under the posts to have the final say of the contest.

Lions – Tries: Andries Coetzee, Marvin Orie, Malcolm Marx (2), Aphiwe Dyantyi, Rohan Janse van Rensburg. Conversions: Elton Jantjies (5).
Sunwolves – Tries: Kotaro Matsushima, Craig Millar, Hosea Saumaki, Kazuki Himeno, Atsushi Sakate. Conversions: William Tupou (3), Ryoto Nakamura (2). Penalty: Tupou.

Lions – 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronjé, 8 Len Massyn, 7 Franco Mostert (c), 6 Kwagga Smith, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Lourens Erasmus, 3 Jacobie Adriaanse, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Dylan Smith.
Subs: 16 Robbie Coetzee, 17 Sti Sithole, 18 Johannes Jonker, 19 Robert Kruger, 20 Marnus Schoeman, 21 Marco Janse van Vuren, 22 Howard Mnisi, 23 Shaun Reynolds.

Sunwolves – 15 Kotaro Matsushima, 14 Lomano Lemeki, 13 William Tupou, 12 Michael Little, 11 Hosea Saumaki, 10 Harumichi Tatekawa, 9 Yutaka Nagare, 8 Michael Leitch, 7 Lappies Labuschagne, 6 Yoshitaka Tokunaga, 5 Wimpie van der Walt, 4 Kazuki Himeno, 3 Jiwon Koo, 2 Yusuke Niwai, 1 Craig Millar.
Subs: 16 Atsushi Sakate, 17 Shintaro Ishihara, 18 Hencus van Wyk, 19 Grant Hattingh, 20 Willie Britz, 21 Keisuke Uchida, 22 Ryoto Nakamura, 23 Ryuji Noguchi.

Photo: Gavin Barker/BackpagePix

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