The Lions scored eight tries in their 52-24 hammering of the Jaguares in Johannesburg on Saturday. JON CARDINELLI reports.
The Lions needed this victory to consolidate their position at the top of the South African group. They needed to follow up the recent win against the Blues with a convincing victory against the Jaguares.
In the end, the Lions racked up a half-century of points and as many as eight tries in the historic fixture against Argentina's Super Rugby franchise. One shudders to think what the final score may have been had the Lions converted more linebreaks into tries, and had Elton Jantjies and Ruan Combrinck not missed seven goal kicks between them.
From the outset, the hosts' ability to offload in contact compromised the Jaguares' defence. The Lions' own defence forced a series of turnovers that created scoring chances at the other end of the field.
The Jaguares competed fiercely at the breakdown in the first half, and remained in the game thanks to the cool goal-kicking of Nicolás Sánchez. The Lions scored three tries in the first stanza, but their poor place-kicking meant that they led by a relatively modest 10-point margin at half-time.
In the second half, however, the Lions succeeded in protecting the ball at the breakdown. Their handling and, ultimately, their finishing was of a higher standard.
Cyle Brink crossed the line shortly after the break to stretch the hosts' lead to 15 points. The Jaguares' defence grew worse as the game progressed, and the likes of Courtnall Skosan and Combrinck cashed in with some stunning long-range tries.
The Jaguares scored their first try in the 66th minute. Gonzalo Bertranou snatched a second for his side in the dying minutes to lend the final scoreline some respectability.
However, it was the Lions who had the final say. The hosts were awarded a penalty after the final whistle, and captain Warren Whiteley pointed to the posts. Combrinck's successful attempt ensured that the Lions surpassed the 50-point mark for the first time in 2016.
Lions – Tries: Courtnall Skosan (2), Lionel Mapoe, Lourens Erasmus, Cyle Brink, Jaco Kriel, Ruan Combrinck (2). Conversions: Elton Jantjies (2), Combrinck. Penalties: Combrinck (2).
Jaguares – Tries: Nicolás Sánchez, Gonzalo Bertranou. Conversion: Santiago González Iglesias. Penalties: Sanchez (4).
Lions – 15 Jaco van der Walt, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Howard Mnisi, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley (c), 7 Cyle Brink, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Lourens Erasmus, 3 Julian Redelinghuys, 2 Akker van der Merwe, 1 Corné Fourie.
Subs: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Dylan Smith, 18 Jacques van Rooyen, 19 Ruan Ackermann, 20 Warwick Tecklenburg, 21 Ross Cronjé, 22 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 23 Sylvian Mahuza.
Jaguares – 15 Joaquín Tuculet, 14 Emiliano Boffelli, 13 Matías Orlando, 12 Juan Martín Hernández, 11 Lucas González Amorosino, 10 Nicolás Sánchez, 9 Martín Landajo (c), 8 Facundo Isa, 7 Tomás Lezana, 6 Javier Ortega Desio, 5 Tomás Lavanini, 4 Matías Alemanno, 3 Ramiro Herrera, 2 Julián Montoya, 1 Santiago García Botta.
Subs: 16 Facundo Bosch, 17 Facundo Gigena, 18 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 19 Guido Petti, 20 Pablo Matera, 21 Gonzalo Bertranou, 22 Santiago González Iglesias, 23 Ramiro Moyano.
Photo: Lee Warren/Gallo Images