The Crusaders scored three tries to beat the Lions 28-7 at Ellis Park on Saturday, writes SIMON BORCHARDT.
This was the Lions' big chance to beat the Saders for the first time since 2009. But they made too many handling errors, knock ons and missed tackles, and while the worst Crusaders side since 1996 were not much better in those departments, they were able to finish three of their try-scoring opportunities.
The Crusaders came into this match with the worst goal-kicking success rate in the tournament (61%) and Colin Slade's first attempt, from an early scrum penalty, went wide. But he made no mistake with his next two to give his side a 6-0 lead after 13 minutes.
The visitors gained early dominace at the breakdown, knowing when to flood it and get the turnover.
The Lions were also putting pressure on themselves by forcing the pass and trying to play too much inside their half. They also failed to capitalise on the attacking opportunities they created inside Crusaders' territory, with one knock-on infuriating Johan Ackermann in the coaches' box (the Lions knocked on four times in the first half and the Crusaders six).
Slade's fourth penalty attempt late in the half came off an upright, and Ryan Crotty then lost possession on the tryline after a second botched lineout from the Lions. The visitors would have been disappointed to have led by just six points having had 65% territory.
The closest the Lions came to putting points on the board in the first 40 was a long-range drop goal attempt by Marnitz Boshoff that went just wide.
The Crusaders came within inches of scoring a try in the first minute of the second half, only to knock on. But they did get over soon after, when Crotty broke through the defence, was ankle-tapped by Faf de Klerk, but got back to his feet to score. Slade kicked the conversion.
Boshoff, who came into this match with a 94% goal-kicking success rate in the tournament, pushed his first attempt wide, but the Lions got on the board when Lionel Mapoe went over in the left corner after strong runs from Willie Britz, Martin Muller and Schalk van der Merwe.
The Lions came close to scoring again at the end of the third quarter, but Boshoff crucially lost the ball in the tackle.
With 15 minutes to go, a pass from Boshoff inside the Lions' 22 came off the tackler into the hands of Crotty, who appeared to score his second try. But as Slade was preparing to kick the conversion, the referee went up to the TMO and replays showed that Crotty had been held up by Warren Whiteley and Jaco Kriel.
But the Crusaders extended their lead when Israel Dagg, who assumed the goal-kicking duties after Slade left the field for blood, slotted a penalty.
Andy Ellis wrapped up the game with eight minutes to go, when he picked up the loose ball at a Lions' ruck, and an excellent grubber from Dagg then saw Kieron Fonotia dot down in the last play of the game.
Lions – Try: Lionel Mapoe. Conversion: Marnitz Boshoff.
Crusaders – Tries: Ryan Crotty, Andy Ellis, Kieron Fonotia. Conversions: Colin Slade, Tyler Bleyendaal. Penalties: Colin Slade (2), Israel Dagg.
Lions – 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Deon van Rensburg, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Stefan Watermeyer, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Marnitz Boshoff, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley (c), 7 Willie Britz, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Martin Muller, 4 Franco Mostert, 3 Julian Redelinghuys, 2 Willie Wepener, 1 Schalk van der Merwe.
Subs: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Corne Fourie, 18 Ruan Dreyer, 19 MB Lusaseni, 20 Warwick Tecklenburg, 21. Ross Cronjé, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 JW Jonker.
Crusaders – 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Nemani Nadolo, 13 Kieron Fonotia, 12 Ryan Crotty (c), 11 Johnny McNicholl, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Luke Whitelock, 7 Matt Todd, 6 George Whitelock, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Dominic Bird, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Ben Funnell, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Subs: 16 Corey Flynn, 17 Daniel Lienert-Brown, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Jimmy Tupou, 20 Jordan Taufua, 21 Willi Heinz, 22 Tyler Bleyendaal, 23 Tom Taylor.
Photo: Anne Laing/HSM Images
LEATHERMAN SA PLAYER OF THE MATCH
Jaco Kriel carried the ball strongly for the Lions, often breaking tackles to get well over the advantage line. He also gave the try-scoring pass to Lionel Mapoe and helped to hold up Ryan Crotty when the Crusaders centre appeared to have scored his second try.
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