The Lions produced a superior physical and tactical performance to claim a 29-16 bonus-point win over the Stormers on Saturday.
The Lions came to Newlands with a point to prove. Much was said and written in the buildup to this clash about the Stormers’ attack as well as the Cape side’s six-game winning streak. Some even dared to suggest that the Stormers – as leaders of the South African group – had displaced the Lions as the form local side.
On Saturday, the Lions put the Stormers in their place. In doing so, they claimed their first-ever Super Rugby win at Newlands.
The Lions looked like a team coming off a bye. They endeavoured to up the tempo from the outset. They clattered into the collisions with maximum ferocity and showed plenty of appetite for the breakdown scrap.
By contrast, the Stormers looked like a side coming off a brutal battle with the notoriously combative Chiefs. Some feared that win had taken a lot out of the Cape side, and that they would lack energy and grunt in the follow-up clash against the Lions.
Jaco Kriel was sent to the sin bin in the 26th minute for a reckless challenge on Robert du Preez. The scoreline during the Lions flank’s absence was 3-3. The Stormers would come to regret letting the Lions off the hook.
Kriel had a massive game at the gainline and at the breakdown. The Lions pack fired as a unit, and was particularly effective at the lineout.
The visitors did have some luck when referee Jaco Peyper and TMO Shaun Veldsman awarded them a try on the stroke of half-time. Initially, it appeared as if Kriel had been held up by Stormers centre Daniel du Plessis. The officials, however, allowed the try to stand. Elton Jantjies then kicked the conversion to propel the Lions into a 22-13 lead.
The Lions made another telling statement after the break. The Stormers laid siege to the Lions tryline for an extended period, but failed to breach the red wall. In fact, it was the hosts who eventually made a mistake and allowed the Lions to clear their lines.
The Stormers’ frustration was patent. The Lions continued to win the gainline battle, and the brave yet battered Stormers continued to concede turnovers and penalties. This allowed the visitors to control the game and spend the bulk of the fourth quarter in the hosts’ half.
Marais goalled a long-range penalty in the 70th minute to bring the Stormers within six points of the Lions. Sylvian Mahuza then broke down the left wing to score the Lions’ fourth. That try sealed the result for the visitors.
The Lions defence kept the Stormers honest in the dying moments. This ensured that the Lions claimed the bonus point and displaced the Stormers at the top of the South African group log.
Stormers – 16
Try: Dillyn Leyds
Conversion: Robert du Preez
Penalties: Du Preez, SP Marais (2)
Lions – 29
Tries: Malcolm Marx, Harold Vorster, Jaco Kriel, Sylvian Mahuza
Conversions: Elton Jantjies (3)
Stormers: 15 SP Marais, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 EW Viljoen, 12 Dan du Plessis, 11 Dillyn Leyds, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Siya Kolisi (c), 6 Nizaam Carr, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg
Replacements: 16 Ramone Samuels, 17 Oli Kebble, 18 Wilco Louw, 19 Jan de Klerk, 20 Johan du Toit, 21 Godlen Masimla, 22 Kurt Coleman, 23 Dan Kriel
Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Madosh Tambwe, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 11 Courtnal Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Warren Whiteley (c), 7 Ruan Ackermann, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Jacques van Rooyen
Replacements: 16 Robbie Coetzee, 17 Corne Fourie, 18 Johannes Jonker, 19 Lourens Erasmus, 20 Albertus Smith, 21 Faf de Klerk, 22 Harold Vorster, 23 Sylvian Mahuza
Date: Saturday, April 15
Venue: Newlands, Cape Town
Referee: Jaco Peyper
Assistant Referees: AJ Jacobs, Cwengile Jadezweni
TMO: Shaun Veldsman