The Lions defeated the Jaguares 16-25 in an arm-wrestle at the Jose Amalfitani Stadium, Buenos Aires.
Marnus Schoeman scored a hat-trick as the Lions came back from a 13-5 down after half an hour.
It was the South African side’s first win in Argentina, kick-starting their 2019 Super Rugby campaign; a performance their coach Swys de Bruin will have enjoyed.
The Jaguares dominated the first half, dominating possession, territory and making the visitors make double the amount of tackles.
But once again, they disappoint with ill-discipline and yet another erratic Jekyll and Hyde display.
The South Americans scored three points in 29 minutes, while the Joburg men found their rhythm and took a two-score lead they never surrendered.
Video highlights: Jaguares versus Lions.
Poor start as the hosts brought the heat.
The game was one of two thirds, not two halves.
It was a new season, new coach (Gonzalo Quesada), and a new captain (Jeronimo de la Fuente), but nothing new as the Jaguares (same old Jaguares) continue to thrill and frustrate in equal measure.
Quesada’s men burnt brightly, strangling the Lions, but faded after the break. It didn’t start well, however.
Guido Petti brought down a driving maul, as the away team looked to dominate the early proceedings.
Whiteley opted for another kick to touch and bingo: Try! Schoeman, in the right place at the right time.
Elton Jantjies missed the conversion, but the Lions had made a statement.
Instead of building on their early momentum, the visitors ceded territory and possession.
The lopsidedness of the statistics was growing; De la Fuente’s side had 75% of territory and possession, while they had made five turnovers as they increased the tempo.
De Bruin’s team was having to make tackles at an alarming rate.
Joaquin Diaz Bonilla, taking over from the great Nicolas Sanchez, had a good game. He was solid in attack and possess both left and right boot; he can kick, too.
The flyhalf, who had a measly 18 Super Rugby points put his side on the scoresheet with a penalty.
The wave of attacks increased, and it was only a matter time before the Lions defence was breached.
The Jaguares finally went wide, retained the ball, quick-ball with lots of smart offloads. Agustin Creevy, showed some magic before Santiago Medrano barged his way over.
Diaz Bonilla added the conversion, before adding another penalty on 27 minutes. It was as good as it would get for the hosts.
Jantjies reduced the deficit to five. By now, the Lions were starting to gather some momentum.
Malcolm Marx lost possession with the try line at his mercy, moments’ later.
Somehow, the tourists wrangled their way back into the opposition’s 22, winning a scrum.
The Lions’ pack delivered, and Schoeman had his second. Jantjies added the go-ahead conversion.
Territory and possession had dropped dramatically to 59% and 55%, respectively, for the Jaguares.
And the Lions’ tackle count was impressive; 54 of 59 attempts, which stymied the South Americans’ attack.
The Lions come out and kill the game, early.
Often, after an impressive ending to the half, the team on the ascendency falls away, in Super Rugby; not this time.
The visitors went from strength to strength, handling the ball better, dominating the set pieces and winning the collisions.
They soon had their reward. From a lineout, the Lions’ maul disintegrated, but – the man of the moment – Schoeman, dug the ball out of the ruck and powered over for the hat-trick.
I bet you wished you had him in your fantasy team.
Diaz Bonilla added another penalty, finally getting some points on the board, but it was to no avail.
The Lions, hunting their prey, were not about to let another famous victory slip from their grasp.
They gathered their thoughts, focusing on the next play; the next series of attacks and defending.
Most of all, they were calm, exuding Whiteley’s nature, not rushing or getting flustered.
Closing out games.
South African sides are famous – or infamous, whichever way you look at it – for clutching defeat from the jaws of victory.
As the great American Football coach Vince Lombardi famously said: “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.”
It always does. Jantjies put his side back up by two scores for the second time, this time, with 10 minutes remaining, it ended the game as a contest.
Final score: Jaguares 16 (13) Lions 25 (15)
Tries – Medrano
Pen – Diaz Bonilla (3)
Con – Diaz Bonilla
Tries – Schoeman (3)
Pen – Jantjies (2)
Con – Jantjies (2)
Referee: Mike Fraser
Assistant Ref 1: Brendon Pickerill
Assistant Ref 2: Rasta Rasivhenge
TMO: Santiago Borsani
Jaguares: 15 Joaquin Tuculet, 14 Bautista Delguy, 13 Matias Orlando, 12 Jeronimo de la Fuente (captain), 11 Ramiro Moyano, 10 Joaquin Diaz Bonilla, 9 Gonzalo Bertranou, 8 Javier Ortega Desio, 7 Rodrigo Bruni, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Santiago Medrano, 2 Agustin Creevy, 1 Mayco Vivas.
Replacements: 16 Julian Montoya, 17 Juan Pablo Zeiss, 18 Enrique Pieretto, 19 Matias Alemanno, 20 Marcos Kremer, 21 Martin Landajo, 22 Juan Cruz Mallia, 23 Matias Moroni.
Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Courtnall Skosan, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Warren Whiteley (captain), 7 Hacjivah Dayimani, 6 Marnus Schoeman, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Rhyno Herbst, 3 Carlu Sadie, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Dylan Smith.
Replacements: 16 Pieter Jansen, 17 Frans Van Wyk, 18 Jacobie Adriaanse, 19 Ruan Vermaak, 20 Robert Kruger, 21 Dillon Smit, 22 Wandisile Simelane, 23 Ruan Combrinck.