The Hurricanes blew away the Lions 37-17 at Ellis Park, Johannesburg, securing a home quarter-final in the process.
The Hurricanes overturned a three-point deficit, scoring 15 unanswered points in nine minutes either side of the break to put the Lions out of their Super Rugby misery.
Aphiwe Dyantyi, Ben Lam and Dane Coles all registered braces for their teams as the Canes inflicted their 10th win in 11 Super rugby matches versus the Johannesburg men.
Ngani Laumape also crossed for the clinical Kiwis to set them on their way.
The bonus-point victory is the Wellington team’s fifth in a row away from the Cake Tin and gives them a home quarter-final at Westpac Stadium.
Despite defeat; however, the Lions could still make the playoffs (I know).
The New Zealanders drew first blood when Laumape scored his 38th Super Rugby try with the Hurricanes‘ first real attack.
But the Lions roared back through Dyantyi and the boot of Shaun Reynolds to take a 10-7 lead early in the second quarter.
Kwagga Smith, playing in his 50th Super rugby match, left the field soon afterwards because of a hamstring injury.
Jordie Barrett levelled with a penalty on the stroke of halftime.
Lam grabbed a seven-minute brace to take the game away from the home team.
Barrett’s second penalty gave his side a 10-point lead with half-an-hour to play.
Dyanthyi claimed his second before the final quarter, but the Lions could not catch the Wellington men.
Coles supplied the double-dagger, but in reality, it could have been much more.
Hurricanes start well, but Lions claw their way back
Laumape opened the scoring in the seventh minute from a first-phase lineout attack on the Lions’ 10m.
James Marshall, in for Beauden Barrett at flyhalf, put Laumape through a hole.
The centre beat Harold Vorster’s weak tackle, raced into the 22, swerving Andries Coetzee before scoring next to the posts.
Jordie Barrett added the extras.
The Lions hit back immediately thanks to some Dyantyi’s brilliance.
The winger spotted some space and chip-kicked behind Barrett and Ben Lam.
Lam knocked the ball back toward Barrett, but the ball went past the fullback and bounced into the chasing Dyantyi’s arms for his fifth Super Rugby try of the season.
Shaun Reynolds levelled.
Swys de Bruin’s side had most of the possession, looking to kick deep and play inside the opposition’s half.
Reynolds edged his side in front with a 21st-minute penalty after the Lions failed to get their driving maul going.
Dyantyi went close after Malcolm Marx’s linebreak in midfield, but the winger was bundled into touch by two defenders.
The home side enjoyed two-thirds territory and possession but went into the break level after a late first-half penalty by Barrett.
John Plumtree’s men were getting the better of the breakdown, especially after Smith left the field.
Lions caught napping after the restart
The second-half got off to the worst possible start for the hosts.
They messed up the kick-off when their jumpers missed the ball.
Lam, in the space usually occupied by Smith, pounced on the mistake to give his side the lead.
Barrett made no mistake with the conversion.
Ardie Savea won a crucial turnover penalty, releasing the pressure.
Some more pain at the breakdown for the Lions cost another three points when Barrett kicked his second penalty-goal to extend his side’s lead to 10.
Lam struck again after the restart.
The 27-year-old combined with Savea on the touchline, after a swivel-move in midfield by the winger, before beating the flailing defenders to extend his team’s advantage to 15.
Andries Coetzee had a try chalked off for obstruction in the build-up.
Hurricanes put their foot down
The Lions were falling apart; they continued to concede penalties in the red zone of either side of the pitch, killing attacking opportunities or releasing pressure.
It was miserable by the Joburg side.
Laumape had a try chalked off for a double movement, but the Hurricanes could not be stopped.
Coles and Dyanthi traded tries before Coles’ double sealed the deal, with four minutes remaining.
The replacement hooker broke off a driving maul and reached out to score by the corner flag.
The end of the season cannot come soon enough for De Bruin’s wounded pride, yet somehow, they could still make the playoffs.
All’s well that ends well.
Final Score: Lions 17 (10) Hurricanes 37 (10)
Tries – Dyantyi (2)
Pen – Reynolds
Con – Reynolds (2)
Tries – Laumape, Lam (2), Coles (2)
Pen – J. Barrett (2)
Con – J. Barrett (3)
Referee: Jaco Peyper
Assistant Ref 1: Egon Seconds
Assistant Ref 2: Stefan Geldenhuys
TMO: Willie Vos
15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Courtnall Skosan, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Shaun Reynolds, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Albertus Smith, 7 Vincent Tshituka, 6 Cyle Brink, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Reinhard Nothnagel, 3 Carlu Sadie, 2 Malcolm Marx (captain), 1 Dylan Smith.
Replacements: 16 Jan-Henning Campher, 17 Nathan McBeth, 18 Johannes Jonker, 19 Hacjivah Dayimani, 20 Marnus Schoeman, 21 Nic Groom, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 Tyrone Green.
15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Ben Lam, 13 Peter Umaga-Jensen, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Chase Tiatia, 10 James Marshall, 9 Thomas Perenara (captain), 8 Gareth Evans, 7 Du’Plessis Kirifi, 6 Reed Prinsep, 5 Isaia Walker-Leawere, 4 James Blackwell, 3 Jeff To’omaga-Allen, 2 Ricky Riccitelli, 1 Toby Smith.
Replacements: 16 Dane Coles, 17 Fraser Armstrong, 18 Ross Geldenhuys, 19 Liam Mitchell, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 Richard Judd, 22 Danny Toala, 23 Salesi Rayasi.