Jarman’s pick of the week
A tough decision this week with only one SA side winning but not looking great while doing it but ultimately I have to go with the winning team because as they say, winning is winning! The Lions played host to the Waratahs on the weekend and the Lions needed to win this one to keep playoff aspirations alive.
The game didn’t start well for the home side as within the opening 5 minutes they found themselves behind. The Waratahs making early pressure count as their winger made a break down the left touch line and with a well-timed inside pass found Nick Phipps who went over for the first try of the game.7-0 to the Tahs.
The home team again not showing aggressiveness on defense and being punished as they have been all season. They would however be next to score points. The Lions put pressure on the Tahs deep in their own territory with a lineout close to the try line and from the resulting maul a penalty advantage was given. And with that advantage the Lions had a few cracks at the line with the big men keeping the ball in tight before Elton Jantjies with a little step and an inside pass for Aphiwe Dyantyi to score the Lions first points of the half. Jantjies made no mistake with the kick, 7-7 after 11 minutes.
The Waratahs were looking to strike back and they did almost immediately as some good handling skills got the ball wide to Michael Hooper who threw a great dummy pass and then took the widest of gaps to cruise over the line for the Tahs 2nd. Bernard Foley added the extras to make it 14-7 to the touring Waratahs.
Continuing with the seesaw nature of this game the home team struck again just 4 minutes after the Waratahs had their 7 point lead restored. The Lions again using their rolling maul effectively to gain meters towards the Waratahs line and then after a few attempts at the line, the Lions patience showed dividends when Stephan Lewies went over from close range. Elton stepped up again to even up the score board with 19 minutes played; it was 14-14 and looking like a super rugby classic was on our hands. The Waratahs came to play and in the 26th minute they were in again. After a good scrum in the Lions half the ball was taken up by the backline and after setting up good quick ball, Rob Simmons ran a beautiful line on the inside shoulder of his defender at pace and took the gap to score under the posts, 21-14 now to the away team.
In an effort not to be outdone on home soil the Lions again struck back showing good resilience. A little grubber kick was played through Kwagga Smith who was on hand to finish off in the corner with Jantjies this time not able to level matters. 21-19 to the Waratahs after 33 minutes and that would be the half time score as well the Lions needing a better showing defensively in the second half.
The Lions picked up where they left off in the first half and scored just 3 minutes after half time. After great work defensive work from Kwagga Smith, ripping the ball in a tackle in his 22, the Lions showed great skill from both backs and forwards to get the ball wide to Courtnal Skosan, who finished off a great bit of rugby from the home side. Jantjies slotted the resulting conversion and now the Lions lead 26-21.
In the 56th minute the Tahs looked to heap more pressure on the home team as they had a scrum just outside the Lions 22. They were patient in their build up play setting up a few phases before Kurtley Beale floated a wide pass to Curtis Rona who was stopped just a meter from the try line but the Waratahs would not be denied. After securing possession the scrum half gave a simple pass to Thomas Staniforth who showed great strength to bust his way over the line. Foley able to convert meant the Tahs had the lead yet again; this game really getting tense now. The score was 28-26 to the Waratahs.
The Lions were next on the scoreboard, again using the rolling maul effectively to gain meters into the Waratahs 22 meant the Tahs defense had to shift accordingly. After the Lions had mauled the ball up the field they tried to get the ball out wide to score however they knocked the ball on but the referee spotted an offside from the Waratahs. Now the Lions had a chance to take the lead once again with a kickable penalty, replacement flyhalf Shaun Reynolds duly slotted home the penalty.
Score was now 29-28 now to the Lions setting up a great last ten minute of this game. The Lions would hold out in this tight game to take the victory in a greatly contested game by both teams. The Lions won 29-28 in the end.
Bulls VS Crusaders
Bulls took on a Crusaders team coming off a home draw to the Sharks the week before. The Bulls, maybe hoping the Sharks had softened up the defending champions somewhat, were in no such luck as the Crusaders ran in 4 first half tries from Richie Mo’unga who bagged a first half brace with Mitchell Dunshea and Sevu Reece the other try scorers. The Bulls only mustering 3 points in the first half from the boot of Handre Pollard. 26-3 at half time at Loftus and the Bulls with much more work to do after the break.
However it would be the Crusaders who would again start well in the second half. Sevu Reece grabbing his brace minutes after the restart and the Crusaders were not done yet as they ran in 2 more tries. Reece, the man of the moment, getting his hat trick before Scott Barrett added icing to the cake late on. The Bulls did manage a try from Burger Odendaal to restore some respectability to the score line but in the end the defending champs just had too much for the Bulls. The Saders winning this one 45-13 at the end of the game.
Chiefs VS Sharks
The Sharks took on the Chiefs after getting a draw against the Crusaders the week before and looking to add to their momentum away from home. The home team started well and were 10-0 up with 27 minutes played through a try from Brad Weber and the boot of Marty Mckenzie. The Sharks however showed great character and came back into the game nicely with a try of their own through Hylton Andrews after Curwin Bosch had given them 3 points with the boot. Both teams would score again in the 1st half. The Chiefs scored a try from Mitchell Karpik and the Sharks got a 3 pointer from Bosch again resulting in a score of 17 -13 at the break and the Sharks still very much in the game.
The second half was an epic battle with the Sharks scoring 10 points in the opening 20 minutes of the half through a try from Ruan Botha and the boot of the ever present Curwin Bosch, setting up a great last 20 minutes of this one. Unfortunately for the touring Sharks team the Chiefs had a lot left in the tank and ran in 2 more tries in the last ten minutes to take this one 29-23 in the end but the Sharks will be in the hunt for a playoff place in the coming weeks.