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Lions dent Highlanders' hopes

28th May 2011 07:58

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Doppies La Grange lions v Highlanders

Winning skipper: Doppies la Grange

A last-minute try from Wikus van Heerden saw the Lions snatch an upset 26-22 win over the Highlanders in Dunedin on Saturday.

The Highlanders failed to shake off the cobwebs after their bye week in a disjointed performance that will seriously jeopardise their chances of making the play-offs.

The result is the rejuvenated Lions' second win on tour after they beat the Brumbies in Australia a fortnight ago.

The win also sees the team from Jo'burg climb above the Rebels at the foot of the overall standings.

Seldom has the "House of Pain" been more aptly named as the Highlanders conspired to be their own worst enemies, giving away countless penalties and the breakdown. The absence of Adam Thomson - who was due to play his 50th match for the home side but was a late withdrawal - certainly didn't help the Highlanders' cause.

All credit to the Lions however for their positive approach. The visitors ran almost everything, from just about everywhere, and impressed with their eagerness to get stuck in. Fly-half Elton Jantjies also kept a spotless record, kicking two conversions and four penalties for 16 points.

The Highlanders led 16-9 at half time thanks to an early try from centre Shaun Treeby but the Lions were able to draw level with half-an-hour left when number eight Josh Strauss crashed over after taking a penalty quickly.

It was anyone's game going to the final quarter but the hosts looked to have the result wrapped up in the dying minutes thanks to Lima Sopoaga's fifth penalty.

But in typical fashion the Lions kept fighting and claimed a shock win with the last play of the game as Van Heerden muscled his way over from short range.

The Highlanders will now try to revival their slim play-off hopes at home to the Force next week while the Lions visit the Hurricanes.

"I've played for the Lions for a long time and I can't remember us winning in New Zealand ever so it's a big occasion for us," said Lions captain Doppies La Grange.

"Some hard work has paid off. The guys showed a lot of attitude and played with heart. It's an awesome feeling. We gave away some silly penalties but against the Highlanders it's always a physical battle and you have to work hard to come out with a win."

La Grange said the hard-working van Heerden and the composed Jantjies had been inspirational figures.

"Wikus is always a stalwart, he always plays with heart and again Elton Jantjies what an exciting youngster," said said.

"He's a name to watch. Winning here means a lot but obviously we have to be consistent and we have to work hard on our consistency to build on this win."

The scorers:

For Highlanders:
Try: Treeby
Con: Sopoaga
Pens: Sopoaga 5

For Lions:
Tries: Strauss, Van Heerden,
Cons: Jantjies 2
Pens: Jantjies 4

Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Kade Poki, 13 Kendrick Lynn, 12 Shaun Treeby, 11 Siale Piutau, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Nasi Manu, 7 Alando Soakai, 6 Nick Crosswell, 5 Josh Bekhuis, 4 Jarred Hoeata, 3 Chris King, 2 Mo Schwalger, 1 Jamie Mackintosh (c).
Replacements: 16 Jason Rutledge, 17 Bronson Murray, 18 , 19 John Hardie, 20 Aaron Smith, 21 Matt Saunders, 22 Robbie Robinson.

Lions: 15 Jaco Taute, 14 Dylon des Fountain, 13 Doppies la Grange (c), 12 Butch James, 11 Deon van Rensburg, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Josh Strauss, 7 Michael Rhodes, 6 Derick Minnie, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Wikus van Heerden, 3 Patric Cilliers, 2 Bandise Maku, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg.
Replacements: 16 Edgar Marutlulle, 17 Jacobie Adriaanse, 18 Warren Whiteley, 19 Cobus Grobbelaar, 20 Rory Kockott, 21 Alwyn Hollenbach, 22 Michael Killian.

Referee: Jonathon White (New Zealand)

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