The Waratahs scored five tries to beat the Lions 29-17 in Sydney on Friday to register their first win of the 2020 season.
Coming into this encounter, the Waratahs were on a five-game losing streak against the Lions, dating back to 2015, and a three-game losing run this season. The Lions have not been in the best of form either so far this year, winning just one of their three matches so far.
But all things considered, it was the Waratahs who conjured up their best performance of 2019 to claim a maiden win. The possession and territory stakes were spread fairly equally, but the Lions were unable to live with the hosts’ speed of ball at the breakdown and accuracy of pass.
The Lions’ defensive line were pierced with relative ease by the Waratahs in the first half. Notably, the clock had not even struck the 20-minute mark and the Waratahs found themselves 19-3 up courtesy of three stunning tries by forwards Angus Bell, Lachlan Swinton and Jack Dempsey.
The Lions though, were not only hamstrung by feeble defence. All their attacking plays were curtailed by questionable decision-making and unforced errors, while ill-discipline also played a part. Lock Ruben Schoeman received a yellow card as early as the ninth minute for punching Waratahs captain Rob Simmons at the side of a ruck.
It was through sheer petulance on the part of Waratahs flank Swinton, that the Lions got close to the tryline for their first score. Swinton’s late, off-the-ball shoulder charge on Lions captain Elton Jantjies earned him a similar fate as Schoeman.
From the resultant penalty, Jantjies hit an excellent touch-finder. But as they prepared to take the attacking lineup, Jantjies was ordered to go for a head injury assessment, much to his chagrin. The Lions skipper pointed out to the referee it was only a hit on the chest, but his plea fell on deaf earns.
But even with Jantjies temporarily off the field, the visitors made inroads into the Waratahs defence as they produced an unstoppable lineout drive from which Marnus Schoeman powered over to dot down for a 19-10 scoreline at the break.
It’s been an entertaining clash at the Bankwest Stadium with the home side going into the break with a 9-point lead over the Lions.
— SuperSport 🏆 (@SuperSportTV) February 28, 2020
In a strong start to the second half, the Lions cut down their error-rate as they sought to overturn the deficit. And for the most part they did a great job of it, pinning the Waratahs back in their own half. But they failed to round off whenever they went close to the tryline.
Instead, it was the Waratahs who pounced on a loose ball to scored against the run of play. With the Lions on the attack, one pass didn’t go to hand, Michael Hooper swooped on the ball and the Waratahs took full advantage of that turnover possession as they sent the ball through the hands with some slick handling to score at the other end.
The Lions would created a couple more opportunities thereafter, but when the Waratahs illegally infringed at a breakdown, the visitors set a lineout. This time they spread the ball in to midfield from where Marnus Schoeman had an easy run-in for his second try. But it mattered little in the context of the game, as the Waratahs would score late in the match to secure a try bonus-point for themselves and take away the losing bonus-point from the Lions.
Waratahs – Tries: Angus Bell, Lachlan Swinton, Jack Dempsey, James Ramm, Tetera Daulkner. Conversions: Will Harrison (2).
Lions – Tries: Marnus Schoeman (2). Conversion: Andries Coetzee, Elton Jantjies (2). Penalty: Jantjies
Waratahs – 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Mark Nawaqanitawase, 13 Alex Newsome, 12 Karmichael Hunt, 11 Jack Maddocks, 10 Will Harrison, 9 Jake Gordon, 8 Jack Dempsey, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Lachie Swinton, 5 Rob Simmons (c), 4 Tom Staniforth, 3 Harry Johnson-Holmes, 2 Robbie Abel, 1 Angus Bell.
Subs: 16 Damien Fitzpatrick, 17 Tom Robertson, 18 Tetera Daulkner, 19 Jed Holloway, 20 Ryan McCauley, 21 Mitch Short, 22 Lalakai Foketi, 23 James Ramm.
Lions – 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Tyrone Green, 13 Manuel Rass, 12 Dan Kriel, 11 Jamba Ulengo, 10 Elton Jantjies (c), 9 Andre Warner, 8 Len Massyn, 7 Vincent Tshituka, 6 Marnus Schoeman, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Ruben Schoeman, 3 Carlu Sadie, 2 Jan-Hemming Campher, 1 Dylan Smith.
Subs: 16 Pieter Jansen, 17 Sti Sithole, 18 Frans van Wyk, 19 Willem Alberts, 20 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 21 Hacjivah Dayimani, 22 Morne van den Berg, 23 Wandisile Simelane.
Photo: Mark Kolbe