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Crusaders slay toothless Lions

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A second-half blitz by the Crusaders was enough to beat the Lions 8-14 at Ellis Park, Johannesburg.

This was not a classic. Both teams made numerous handling errors in a stop-start game in the City of Gold.

It was a rematch of last season’s Super Rugby final, but it resembled nothing of that game.

It was also the Kiwis’ ninth win in the last 10 matches versus the Lions, who are winless against the seven-time champions since 2007.

The Crusaders trailed the Lions, being held scoreless for 50 minutes 5-0, but a three-minute two-try blitz turned the game in their favour.

Captain Sam Whitelock and Jack Goodhue’s second-half tries cancelled out Madosh Tambwe’s 14th-minute strike.

The Crusaders also had two tries by George Bridge ruled out for two forward passes, which ultimately, kept Swys de Bruin’s team in the contest.

A late Elton Jantjies penalty brought the Lions within touching distance, but their profligacy in the red zone, coupled with elementary handling mistakes, cost them the match.

However, they could make their good fortune count, going down meekly for another loss.

Poor from start to finish.

De Bruin will have been pulling his hair out in the coaches box at Ellis Park. His team was nowhere near their best.

They were battered by the New Zealanders, who dominated possession and territory, and the tackle count.

At half-time, the statistics made for troubled reading. The Crusaders had 73 percent territory and 61 percent possession and had only made 25 tackles to the Lions’ 68.

Mitchell Hunt missed an early penalty before Tambwe opened the scoring.

It came after another line-break by Andries Coetzee set up possession inside the Crusaders’ half.

Some slick handling by the backs and Malcolm Marx sent the hot-stepper away for five points.

That was a good as it would get for the Lions.

Despite ‘nilling’ Scott Robertson’s defending Super Rugby champions, the Lions did not create too much else, when they did, they botched the chances.

Tambwe has a talent for finishing, but he has shown this campaign, like Sylvian Mahuza, that he is terrible under the high-ball.

The visitors targetted the try-scorer, who duly made to errors from restarts.

The mistakes did not prove costly, thanks to errant passing by Hunt, and the TMO.

Bridge walked in for what everyone thought was a try, only to be disallowed after television replays showed the ball went slightly forwards from the flyhalf’s hands.

It was slick from the Kiwis, who were getting into their groove – and it came after Tambwe’s knock on.

Five minutes’ later, another try was chalked off for a forward pass between the Hunt-Bridge combination.

The Lions had got out of jail, twice, taking a slim lead into the break.

Two-try second-half blitz.

The Crusaders loose forwards were imposing their will at the breakdown; only Marx, who was outstanding, was keeping them at bay.

But the quick-ball kept coming for the tourists, and soon after the interval, they pounced.

A poor pass from Jantjies to Coetzee, who knocked on, led to an attacking scrum inside their 22 for the Crusaders.

Thirteen phases later, the skipper peeled around the side of a ruck and powered over the whitewash to level the scores.

Goodhue crossed for his sixth Super rugby try, two minutes’ later.

It came from some route-one running by Manasa Mataele, who ran over some defenders and sped through some iffy tackling.

The centre still had work to do, beating a defender and handing off Ross Cronje before diving over.

Hunt’s second conversion took the lead out to nine points.

No game awareness or tactical astuteness cost the Lions.

The Lions had a chance to chip away at the deficit, but instead, opted for a centre-field scrum, five metres out from the Crusaders’ goal-line.

They butchered the scrum and the three points.

It is no surprise because, for the past two season’s, much of the Highveld team’s success has come from not taking the points.

It did highlight, once again, that tactically this was the wrong option, especially going into the final quarter.

Like the Bulls, the Lions need to somehow acquire better game-management skills and awareness.

With time running out, and in the same position as the botched scrum, they decided to take the points.

In the likely event of a late try, this was a good call.

But in the context of the game and the Lions’ past two campaigns, it was of little consequence.

Lions versus Crusaders video highlights.

Final score: Lions 8 (5) Crusaders 14 (0)

Scorers

Lions
Tries – Tambwe
Pen – Jantjies
Con –
Drop –
Cards –

Crusaders
Tries – Whitelock, Goodhue
Pen –
Con – Hunt (2)
Drop –
Cards –

Match Officials
Referee: Jaco Peyper
Assistant Ref 1: Rasta Rasivhenge
Assistant Ref 2: Egon Seconds
TMO: Marius Jonker

Teams

Lions

15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Sylvian Mahuza, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Harold Voster, 11 Madosh Tambwe, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Dillon Smit, 8 Hacjivah Dayimani, 7 Cyle Brink, 6 Albertus Smith, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Malco Marx, 1 Dylan Smith.

Replacements: 16 Corne Fourie, 17 Jacques van Rooyen, 18 Jacobie Adriaanse, 19 Lourence Erasmus, 20 Marvin Orie, 21 Marnus Schoeman, 22 Howard Mnisi, 23 Shaun Reynolds

Crusaders

15 David Havili, 14 Seta Tamanivalu, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 George Bridge, 10 Mitchell Hunt, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Jordan Taufua, 7 Matt Todd, 6 Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, 5 Sam Whitelock (captain), 4 Scott Barrett, 3 Michael Alaalatoa, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Tim Perry

Replacements: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Oliver Jager, 19 Quinten Strange, 20 Tom Sanders, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Mike Delany, 23 Manasa Mataele

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