The Lions beat the Stormers 26-23 at Newlands on Saturday in a result shaped by the sending off of Raymond Rhule. JON CARDINELLI reports.
The Stormers have every right to feel aggrieved. They were on top at the scrums and collisions for more than 50 minutes of the contest. The defence did well to repel the much-vaunted Lions attack, even in the period before and after half-time when centre JJ Engelbrecht was in the sin bin.
In the end, however, the game was influenced to a telling degree by a single incident in the second half. Rhule leapt to compete for a high ball, and his arm made contact with Ruan Combrinck’s head.
The officials determined that the offence – which appeared unintentional – warranted a red card. The upshot was that the Stormers were forced to compete without a full complement of players for the remaining 30 minutes.
At the time of Rhule’s departure, the Stormers enjoyed a 17-7 lead. The Cape side looked to be on course for their first victory against the Lions in three years.
The complexion of the game changed almost immediately. The Lions scored through reserve hooker Corné Fourie, and came close to adding another try soon after. Referee Nick Briant decided to send reserve flanker Jaco Coetzee to the sin bin after the Stormers had committed a series of infringements in the red zone.
The Lions made their two-man advantage count. The visitors booted a penalty to touch and set a maul. Fourie crashed over for his second try of the evening, and Elton Jantjies’ conversion propelled the Lions into the lead.
The 13-man Stormers side refused to lie down. The hosts played their way upfield and earned a penalty, which Jean-Luc du Plessis duly slotted. Coetzee made his way back onto the park thereafter to give his side a much-needed boost up front.
Du Plessis kicked another penalty in the 72nd minute to stretch the hosts’ lead to four points. That score left the Lions needing a try to win the game in the dying moments.
The Lions were awarded a penalty and Jantjies didn’t hesitate to put it into touch near the Stormers’ tryline. The visitors set the maul and then shifted the ball to the blindside. Replacement wing Madosh Tambwe jetted in for the winning score.
The result marks the Lions’ 19th straight win against South African opposition. More importantly, they have consolidated their position at the top of the South African conference standings and remain favourites to win that title.
Stormers – Tries: Dewaldt Duvenage, Raymond Rhule. Conversions: Jean-Luc du Plessis (2). Penalties: Du Plessis (3).
Lions – Tries: Nic Groom, Corne Fourie (2), Madosh Tambwe. Conversions: Elton Jantjies (3).
Stormers – 15 Dillyn Leyds, 14 Craig Barry, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Jean-Luc du Plessis, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Kobus van Dyk, 6 Siya Kolisi (c), 5 Chris van Zyl, 4 Jan de Klerk, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Ramone Samuels, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg.
Subs: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Frans Malherbe, 19 Cobus Wiese, 20 Nizaam Carr, 21 Jaco Coetzee, 22 Paul de Wet, 23 EW Viljoen.
Lions – 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ruan Combrink, 13 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Kwagga Smith, 7 Franco Mostert (c), 6 Marnus Schoeman, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Lourens Erasmus, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Robbie Coetzee, 1 Jacques van Rooyen.
Subs: 16 Corne Fourie, 17 Dylan Smith, 18 Jacobie Adriaanse, 19 Rhyno Herbst, 20 Hacjivah Dayimani, 21 Ross Cronje, 22 Madosh Tambwe, 23 Sylvian Mahuza.
Photo: Nic Bothma/BackpagePix