Planet Rugby

Lions win thriller in Jo'burg

15th March 2014 14:48

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Machine: Marnitz Boshoff

The Lions condemned the Blues to back-to-back Super Rugby defeats in Johannesburg on Saturday, as the hosts sealed a thrilling 39-36 win.

In a tale of two halves, the Blues' brave second-half comeback proved fruitless as the Lions managed to hang on for their third win of the season.

Trailing 17-0 at half-time, the Kiwis put 36 points on the board as they raised their tempo - scoring three tries in the last quarter - but the boot of Lions fly-half Marnitz Boshoff ultimately proved to be the difference between the two sides.

The New Zealand outfit must now pick themselves up for a tricky clash against the Cheetahs next Saturday, while the Lions will have their tails up when they play host to the Reds.

An open game was predicted, but a ping-pong battle was dished up in the opening 30 minutes of the match as both sides - desperate to return to winning ways - opted for a safe approach with the boot. Boshoff had an opportunity to put his side in front in the opening quarter, but uncharacteristically pushed his attempt wide - his first miss of the season.

In perfect conditions, the crowd had to wait until the 34th minute to witness the first points of the match courtesy of a Faf de Klerk try after the scrum-half took advantage of prop Charlie Faumuina's yellow card and burrowed over from close range.

Boshoff followed up his conversion with a well-struck drop-goal that got the crowd on their feet.

With the half-time hooter ringing throughout the stadium, the Lions were hungry for one more try before the break and didn't disappoint as winger Courtnall Skosan sliced through the Blues' defence to score following a quick-tap penalty. Boshoff converted, and the Lions headed into half-time with a handy 17-0 lead.

The Lions carried their momentum into the second half as Boshoff slotted his second drop-goal of the match, stretching his side's lead to 20 points. And it didn't get any easier for the visitors after lock Tom Donnelly was yellow-carded for clearing out two rucks on the trot illegally.

Reduced to 14 men (again), fly-half Chris Noakes was able to salvage three points with his first penalty shot of the match before Boshoff stepped up to the tee and raised the flags once more.

Blues coach Sir John Kirwan had seen enough, and his super subs made an immediate impact as the visitors scored two quick-fire tries to put themselves back in the match.

All Blacks wing Charles Piutau was over first in the corner after a terrific build-up by his team-mates, followed by replacement scrum-half Bryn Hall who scored with his first touch of the ball.

Noakes slotted one out of the two conversions, and the Blues were back in the hunt.

Momentum swung back into the home side's favour thanks to a controversial try after it was deemed the ball was knocked out of a Lions player's hand which was duly pounced on by Coenie van Wyk. Boshoff's conversion returned his team to a safe 15-point lead.

But the Blues refused to roll over and struck back with another try - this time to Frank Halai after the wing was put into space and touched down under the posts for an easy Noakes conversion.

Boshoff continued to provide relief for team-mates and fans alike with another three-pointer to keep the Lions ahead, but the Blues were getting better as the match wore on as George Moala proved by scoring the visitors' bonus-point try in the 70th minute.

However every time the Blues got a sniff of a comeback victory, the Lions would hit back with points of their own as Boshoff fired over two more crucial penalties.

Benji Marshall's last-minute converted touchdown once again gave the Blues a glimmer of hope, with now only three points separating the teams. But the Lions refused to buckle, and the rest as they say, is history.

The scorers:

For Lions:
Tries: de Klerk, Skosan, Van Wyk
Cons: Boshoff 3
Pens: Boshoff 4
Drop Goals: Boshoff 2

For Blues:
Tries: Piutau, Hall, Halai, Moala, Marshall
Cons: Noakes 2, Hickey 2
Pen: Hickey
Yellow Cards: Faumuina, Donnelly

Lions: 15 Coenie van Wyk, 14 JW Jonker, 13 Deon van Rensburg, 12 Stefan Watermeyer, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Marnitz Boshoff, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley (c), 7 Willie Britz, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Franco Mostert, 3 Julian Redelinghuys, 2 Robbie Coetzee, 1 Schalk van der Merwe.
Replacements: 16 Willie Wepener, 17 Corné Fourie, 18 Ruan Dreyer, 19 MB Lusaseni, 20 Warwick Tecklenburg, 21 Ross Cronjé, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 Ruan Combrinck.

Blues: 15 Benji Marshall, 14 Frank Halai, 13 George Moala, 12 Pita Ahki, 11 Charles Piutau, 10 Chris Noakes, 9 Piri Weepu , 8 Steven Luatua, 7 Luke Braid, 6 Brendon O'Connor, 5 Tom Donnelly, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 James Parsons, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Tom McCartney, 17 Sam Prattley, 18, Angus Ta'avao, 19 Liaki Moli, 20 Jordan Manihera, 21 Bryn Hall, 22 Simon Hickey, 23 Jackson Willison.

Referee: Stuart Berry (South Africa)

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