Lions stun Bulls at the death

Date published: April 4 2015

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Armand van der Merwe's last-second try gave the Lions a derby win over the Bulls 22-18 in Johannesburg.

Having won three of their four games on their Australasian tour, the Lions were keen to pick up a first home win of the campaign.

However the Bulls were in good form of their own, and as a result it was a very tight affair.

The game looked to be heading for a draw, only for Jacques-Louis Potgieter's penalty to put the Bulls up in the dying seconds.

But there was still time for van der Merwe to turn it around at the death.

That late three-pointer from Potgieter put the visitors in front, but a quick-tap penalty by replacement scrum-half Faf de Klerk caught the men from Pretoria off-guard and allowed Van der Merwe to power past Bulls centre Burger Odendaal and hooker Callie Visagie for the only try in the rain affected clash.

The Bulls have, despite the loss, taken over as leaders of the South African conference and at the completion of the match were placed third in the overall log standings.

In what was always going to be a closely contested showdown, the visitors indicated early-on that they would not be taking too many risks when Potgieter attempted a drop goal after his team ventured into Lions territory for the first time.

That same conservative approach continued for the remainder of the first-half as the visitors often sacrificed scoring opportunities to ensure that they maintain good field position.

With rain being a huge factor in the contest the Lions looked somewhat out of their comfort zone as they were forced to play a less expansive game. They were made to fetch many up-and-unders and often made errors from that position.

Almost against the run of play the home side were first to score through a Elton Jantjies penalty after Deon Stegmann was penalised for not releasing the tackler.

Jantjies extended his team’s lead to 6-0 in the 17th minute when Pierre Spies was pinged for a breakdown infringement.

The Bulls, however, remained patient and by keeping the ball amongst their forwards they managed to get on the scoreboard just before the half-hour mark through Potgieter who had earlier squandered two kicks at goal from inside his own half.

While both teams struggled to retain possession from their own line-outs, the Bulls were the dominant force at scrum-time and after an infringement in that facet of play Potgieter was able keep his side in the right part of the field.

The breakdown battle between Stegmann and Warwick Tecklenburg was one of the highlights of the match and it was due to the visitors' good execution in that area that they enjoyed a 9-6 lead heading into the break.

The second half proved to be just as closely contested as the first with neither of the sides willing to give an inch.

Jantjies had the chance to put his team in front shortly after the break, but pushed his shot wide of the mark, just as he did with his attempt prior to the break.

Stegmann was then again adjudged to have held on to the attacking player for too long and in the 57th minute Jantjies levelled the scores.

The pivot gave his side the lead a few minutes later, but the Bulls bounced back with another three-pointer – this time Tecklenburg was the man who infringed at ruck-time.

Another solid scrum ensured that the Bulls edged ahead, but at 15-12 the game was still far from won.

With matters as close as they were, impact players were always going have a huge influence on the match and on that front Lions coach Johann Ackermann timed his substitutions to perfection.

Brining on Marnitz Boshoff ensured that his team was able to get out of their half easier – due to the left-right kicking combination they now had with Boshoff and Jantjies on the field – while a line-break by Howard Mnisi gave the home side the edge when it mattered most.

The Bulls will be particularly pleased with the improved performance of their captain Pierre Spies who was not only good with ball in hand, but equally effective in turning over possession at the breakdown.

With less than a minute remaining on the clock Potgieter gave his side the lead after flanker Jaco Kriel was pinged at a ruck, but the Lions never gave up and through their quick thinking managed to pull off their first win at home this season.

The scorers:

For Lions:
Try: van der Merwe
Con: Jantjies
Pens: Jantjies 5 

For Bulls:
Pens: Potgieter 6

The teams:

Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Warren Whiteley (c), 7 Warwick Tecklenburg, 6 Derick Minnie, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Robbie Coetzee, 1 Jacques van Rooyen.
Replacements: 16 Armand van der Merwe, 17 Corne Fourie, 18 Julian Redelinghuys, 19 Robert Kruger, 20 Jaco Kriel, 21 Faf de Klerk, 22 Marnitz Boshoff, 23 Howard Mnisi.

Bulls: 15 Jesse Kriel, 14 Francois Hougaard, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Pierre Spies (c), 7 Hanro Liebenberg, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Grant Hattingh, 4 Jacques du Plessis, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Adriaan Strauss,1 Dean Greyling.
Replacements: 16 Callie Visagie, 17 Morné Mellett, 18 Marcel van der Merwe, 19 Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg, 20 Roelof Smit, 21 Piet van Zyl, 22 Tian Schoeman, 23 Jurgen Visser.

Venue: Emirates Airline Park, Johannesburg
Referee: Jaco van Heerden
Assistant Referees: Jason Jaftha, Stephan Geldenhuys
TMO: Shaun Veldsman

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