Lionel Mapoe scored a hat-trick of tries as the Lions recorded a 43-5 bonus-point win over the Blues at Ellis Park on Saturday. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
The Lions are back. Of that there is no doubt. Despite the cold and rainy conditions in Johannesburg, the Lions played with not only fearless ambition, but also impressive accuracy on defence, while their kicking game was spot on.
The bonus-point win also enables the Lions to move back to the top of the South African group, and with three of their five remaining conference games set to be played at home, they look well placed to remain in pole position.
With the rain pouring down early on, it was expected to be a tight and forward-orientated affair. The Lions, though, had other ideas. Just 57 seconds into the match and captain Warren Whiteley burrowed over to score after the Lions had won a lineout on the Blues’ throw.
It was then the turn of Elton Jantjies to produce a mini-masterclass. First he executed a well-weighted cross-kick that Courtnall Skosan beautifully fielded in the corner before dotting down, while Jantjies then delivered a deft chip-kick over the defence, this time for Rohan Janse van Rensburg to collect and score.
Suddenly, after just 12 minutes, the Lions were 19 points to the good. In the context of the conditions, it was an awe-inspiring start from the fearless home side, and left the Blues looking understandably shell-shocked.
Despite the wet weather, in the opening quarter the Lions made 136m, completed 36 passes, made 26 carries and beat six defenders, as indicated by SARugbymag.co.za’ Opta-powered stats. That says everything about a side that has retained complete belief in what they are doing.
Also consider for a moment that the last time the Lions were in action, they suffered a 50-17 hammering at the hands of the Hurricanes. Yet despite this, and regardless of the torrential rain, the home side displayed their willingness to stick to their ever-ambitious approach. Kudos to them.
Although both teams remained scoreless in the second quarter, it would have been the Lions who headed into the break full of confidence. Especially considering that even though they’d had to make 56 tackles compared to the Blues’ 35 in the first half, they only missed one. The Blues, by contrast, slipped 11 tackles.
The Lions turned on the style once again soon after the restart, with some lovely handling creating a gap for Mapoe to scythe through for the team’s fourth try, while just a few minutes later Warwick Tecklenburg went over from the back of a maul.
At 31-0 up, there was no way back for the Blues, and Mapoe then added to the visitors’ woes when he darted over for his second try in the 65th minute. Blues replacement Joe Edwards would score a consolation try late in the game, but the night belonged to the Lions, and quite fittingly, Mapoe would have the final say of the game as he went over for his third try with the final play of the game.
Lions – Tries: Warren Whiteley, Courtnall Skosan, Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Lionel Mapoe (3), Warwick Tecklenburg. Conversions: Elton Jantjies (4).
Blues – Try: Joe Edwards.
Lions – 15 Jaco van der Walt, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronjé, 8 Warren Whiteley (c), 7 Warwick Tecklenburg, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Ruan Ackermann, 3 Julian Redelinghuys, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Dylan Smith.
Subs: 16 Akker van der Merwe, 17 Corné Fourie, 18 Jacques van Rooyen, 19 Robert Kruger, 20 Cyle Brink, 21 Faf de Klerk, 22 Howard Mnisi, 23 Sylvian Mahuza.
Blues – 15 Lolagi Visinia, 14 Melani Nanai, 13 George Moala, 12 Piers Francis, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Ihaia West, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Steven Luatua, 7 Tanerau Latimer, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Hoani Matenga, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 James Parsons (c), 1 Sam Prattley.
Subs: 16 Quentin MacDonald, 17 Nic Mayhew, 18 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 19 Kara Pryor, 20 Joe Edwards, 21 Billy Guyton, 22 Matt McGahan, 23 Male Sau.
Photo: Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images