The Brumbies eased to a 30-20 victory over the Lions at Ellis Park on Saturday to move back to the top of the Australian conference. BRENTON CHELIN reports.
It was the Lions who came into the match harbouring hopes of moving to the top of their local conference, but they let themselves down badly with a sloppy first-half performance which cost them in the end.
The occasion seemed to get the better of them as the visitors ran in three first-half tries to lead 22-6 at the break. It wasn't the first time the Lions had made a slow start, but this time there would be no fairytale comeback.
The Lions contributed to their own downfall with a series of errors during the first 40 minutes. They were frantic and tried to be too expansive for their own good, with runners often getting isolated in contact. In contrast, the Brumbies were controlled with ball in hand and at the breakdown.
The Brumbies were penalised heavily at the breakdown early on, but were quick to adapt to referee Jaco Peyper's interpretation, who turned his attentions to the Lions. Any early momentum the Lions may have gained from two early penalties was lost as the Brumbies came bounding back into the contest with two quick tries.
The Lions were taking a beating at the breakdown and the Brumbies were making the most of quality ball provided, allowing their dangerous ball-runners into the game. Tevita Kuridrani was the first to profit, crashing over in the 18th minute, before Ita Vaea did the same moments later.
Where those tries resulted from some good work by the Brumbies, their third came from some poor play by the Lions. A risky lineout move in their own half went wrong and Robbie Coetzee's lofted pass was easily picked off by Christian Leali'ifano, who cantered in for an easy score.
The Lions did have a chance to reduce the deficit prior to half-time. With their rolling maul starting to make an impact, the Lions kicked for the corner but inexplicably tried another clever lineout move. Coetzee knocked on and the chance was gone.
The second half followed the pattern of the first, with the Lions bossing the scrums but unable to match the Brumbies around the park. The Brumbies were tactically superior, forcing errors from the Lions with disciplined defence and pushing them back towards their own line with some clever tactical kicks.
Jaco Kriel managed to find a rare gap in the Brumbies defence to go in for a try with 15 minutes remaining, but even then, there seemed likely to be only one outcome.
Tomane made sure of the result with a try in the corner to seal the bonus point and complete a resounding victory for the visitors.
The result leaves the Lions in eighth place and needing a clean sweep from matches against the Cheetahs, Waratahs and Stormers if they're to sneak into the play-offs from here.
Lions – Tries: Jaco Kriel, Andries Coetzee. Conversions: Elton Jantjies (2). Penalties: Jantjies, Ruan Combrinck.
Brumbies – Tries: Tevita Kuridrani, Ita Vaea, Christian Leali'ifano, Joe Tomane. Conversions: Leali'ifano (2). Penalties: Leali'ifano, Jesse Mogg.
Lions – 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Lionel Mapoe, 13 Harold Vorster, 12 Alwyn Hollenbach, 11 Ruan Combrinck, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley (c), 7 Robert Kruger, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Martin Muller, 3 Julian Redelinghuys, 2 Robbie Coetzee, 1 Schalk van der Merwe. Subs: 16 Armand van der Merwe, 17 Jacques van Rooyen, 18 Ruan Dreyer, 19 MB Lusaseni, 20 Warwick Tecklenburg, 21 Ross Cronjé, 22 Jaco van der Walt, 23 Howard Mnisi.
Brumbies – 15 Jesse Mogg, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Matt Toomua, 11 Joseph Tomane, 10 Christian Lealiifano, 9 Nic White, 8 Ita Vaea, 7 David Pocock, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Rory Arnold, 4 Sam Carter, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Allan Alaalatoa. Subs (two to be omitted): 16 Josh Mann-Rea, 17 JP Smith, 18 Ruan Smith, 19 Jarrad Butler, 20 Blake Enever, 21 Dowsett, 22 Robbie Coleman, 23 James Dargaville.
Photo: Anne Laing/HSM Images