Ruan Combrinck scored a brace of tries as the Lions secured a resounding 51-14 win over the Bulls at Ellis Park on Saturday. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
It’s a ninth successive win for the Lions this season, who increasingly appear to be serious title contenders, while for the Bulls, a season of horror continues to resemble the stuff of nightmares.
Combrinck received a late call-up to the starting lineup, replacing Sylvian Mahuza, and produced an outstanding individual effort, but this was an overall performance of utter domination from a Lions team that is at the peak of their powers.
After returning from an undefeated tour to Australia, where the Lions displayed plenty of gumption on defence, they rediscovered their attacking mojo back home as they outscored their Gauteng rivals seven tries to two.
The Lions led 39-14 at the break, and the first-half stats will tell the full story as to why. Take a moment to absorb the fact that the hosts made 348m to 171, 55 carries to 28, beat 11 defenders to four, and completed 81 passes to 38. In addition, the Bulls conceded nine turnovers and missed 11 tackles.
In short, the Lions ran the Bulls ragged, and the hapless men in dark blue simply had no answer.
Combrinck marked his return to Super Rugby in some style as he produced a beautiful chip and gather to score as early as the second minute, and although the Bulls responded with a superbly worked try of their own to Jan Serfontein, it was only a temporary reprieve for the visitors.
Two subsequent penalties were comfortably slotted by Elton Jantjies, before the Lions turned on their attacking style to create two contenders for tries of the season, with Kwagga Smith and Ruan Dreyer providing the finishing touches.
It was a double strike that sent the Lions powering into a 27-7 lead, and while the Bulls hit back through a superb solo try to Jesse Kriel, it never looked likely to alter the complexion of a half that the hosts had completely dominated.
Quite deservedly, industrious captain Warren Whiteley charged down a kick and followed up to score as the Lions restored a commanding 20-point lead, while Combrinck dotted down with the final play of the half to strike a killer blow just before the break.
With a 25-point differential, that was as good as game, set and match, while Franco Mostert scored soon after the restart to pile on the punishment.
From there on,the match degenerated into a scrappy affair, but the Lions finished off the contest in fine fashion as Lionel Mapoe went over to score and add the finishing touches to a clinical win.
Lions – Tries: Ruan Combrinck (2), Kwagga Smith, Ruan Dreyer, Warren Whiteley, Franco Mostert, Lionel Mapoe. Conversions: Elton Jantjies (5). Penalties: Jantjies (2).
Bulls – Tries: Jan Serfontein, Jesse Kriel. Conversions: Francois Brummer (2).
Lions – 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronjé, 8 Warren Whiteley (c), 7 Ruan Ackermann, 6 Kwagga Smith, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Jacques van Rooyen.
Subs: 16 Akker van der Merwe, 17 Corné Fourie, 18 Johannes Jonker, 19 Lourens Erasmus, 20 Cyle Brink, 21 Faf de Klerk, 22 Jacques Nel, 23 Anthony Volmink.
Bulls – 15 Jesse Kriel, 14 Jade Stighling, 13 Jan Serfontein, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Sibahle Maxwane, 10 Francois Brummer, 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Hanro Liebenberg (c), 7 Jannes Kirsten, 6 Ruan Steenkamp, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Lizo Gqoboka.
Subs: 16 Edgar Marutlulle, 17 Pierre Schoeman, 18 Coenraad van Vuuren, 19 Abongile Nonkontwana, 20 Nic de Jager, 21 Ivan van Zyl, 22 Tony Jantjies, 23 Warrick Gelant.
Photo: Anne Laing/HM Images