The Lions beat the Jaguares 24-21 at Ellis Park in Johannesburg, maintaining their standing a the top of the Africa 2 Conference and South Africa group standings.
Elton Jantjies kicked a late penalty to give his team the victory and a tenth consecutive home win as the Lions overcame a fierce second half comeback by the Jaguares.
Both teams scored three tries apiece but, it Jantjies had the final say for last year’s Super Rugby runners-up. He and Nicolás Sánchez traded conversions in a tight, tense affair in JHB.
It was a battle royale on the highveld as the South Americans took an early 7-0 lead. Matías Orlando finished off a multi-phases play. Sánchez.
Sánchez offloaded to Jerónimo De La Fuente, who was brought down, Rodrigo Báez was stopped short as the Lions held on. Báez, tackled, put the ball on a plate for the centre, who picked up and scored.
But, the hosts hit back with two converted tries and led 14-7 at the break. First, Harold Vorster danced his way over the try-line.
The centre took a flat pass from Ross Cronjé after Warren Whiteley’s blindside break from the back of a scrum.
Vorster, who on the angle, collected the scrum-half’s pass, evaded two defenders to score. Jantjies’ conversion tied the game.
The Jaguares were losing their cool and their lack of composure saw them drop easy passes under no pressure and, lose a tighthead.
The South Americans were losing the collisions and were held up on three occasions in the first half alone.
On 22 minutes Lionel Mapoe put his side in the lead. The outside centre went wide, beat Orlando’s tackle, straightened and with a show-and-go, scored under the posts. The Jaguares were in disarray.
Somehow, the visitors managed to go into the shed, down by only one score.
With the home teams record at the famous ground and their ability to crush the opposition in the final quarter, one had a feeling, the Jaguares would crumble.
They did not. They played the Bulls last weekend, so had been at altitude for two weeks and, they were acclimatised to the thin air.
Within seven minutes of the restart, it was apparent, the Jaguares had received the hairdryer and they came out firing. It was
Rodrigo Báez reduced the gap. The Jags were putting sustained pressure on their hosts and eventually, it paid off; the big man was tackled short but reached out and scores.
It was one v four and he still found a way to dot down. Sánchez, from wide, levelled the scores at 14-all and, three minutes later: Boom! One of the tries of the season saw Guido Petti put his team back in the lead.
Like the Chiefs against the Stormers and the Brumbies today, the Jaguares went the length of the field, with about a dozen hands touching the ball, to score.
Báez was stopped short in the same corner he had just scored, the Argentines recycled, went through several phases on the Lions goal line, sent the ball wide to the left and Petti barged over in the corner.
Wow. Stunning handling and quick distribution put paid to the Lions’ defenders, who were pulled all over the park as the Jaguares took control of the game: 14-21.
The Jaguares had turned a seven-point deficit into a seven point lead with half an hour to play. Somehow, the Lions held on. some more sloppy handling from the visitors kept the home team in the hunt.
With five minutes remaining, the Lions scored a wonderful team try through Ruan Ackermann, to level the scores for the third time in the match.
The Springbok fly-half added the extras. He would have the final say with penalty moments later to keep the Lions’ 10-match winning streak at home, intact.
Final score is Lions 24 (14) Jaguares 21 (7)
Tries – Vorster, Mapoe, Ackermann
Pen – Jantjies
Con – Jantjies (3)
Cards – Vorster (Yellow, 54th minute)
Tries – Orlando, Báez, Petti
Con – Sánchez (3)
Referee: Angus Gardner
Assistant Ref 1: Ben O’Keeffe
Assistant Ref 2: AJ Jacobs
TMO: Willie Vos
15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Madosh Tambwe, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronjé, 8 Warren Whiteley (Captain), 7 Ruan Ackermann, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Johannes Jonker, 2 Armand van der Merwe, 1 Corné Fourie.
Replacements: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Jacques van Rooyen, 18 Ruan Dreyer, 19 Lourens Erasmus, 20 Albertus Smith, 21 Francois de Klerk, 22 Jacques Nel, 23 Sylvian Mahuza.
15 Ramiro Moyano, 14 Santiago Cordero, 13 Matías Orlando, 12 Jerónimo De La Fuente, 11 Bautista Ezcurra, 10 Nicolás Sànchez, 9 Felipe Ezcurra, 8 Benjamin Macome, 7 Rodrigo Báez, 6 Tomás Lezana, 5 Marcos Kremer, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Ramiro Herrera, 2 Agustín Creevy (Captain), 1 Lucas Noguera Paz.
Replacements: 16 Roberto Tejerizo, 17 Santiago García Botta, 18 Enrique Pieretto, 19 Ignacio Larrague, 20 Pablo Matera, 21 Gonzalo Bertranou, 22 Joaquín Diaz Bonilla, 23 Emiliano Boffelli