Lions scrape home against Jaguares
A 77th minute penalty by Springbok flyhalf Elton Jantjies broke the deadlock to give the Emirates Lions a narrow 24-21 win over the Jaguares in Johannesburg on Friday night.
Jantjies was dead-shot as he kept a 100 percent record to kick two crucial kicks when it mattered as the Lions struggled against a game Argentine performance.
The other was a touchline conversion of Ruan Ackermann’s try that brought the teams level, as the home side clawed their way back into the game after trailing 21-14 going into the last 10 minutes.
But it was tough going for the Lions as the Jaguares were disciplined, tough and physical, won the breakdown battle and often made their opposition look ordinary, showing just how effective they could be.
To be fair to the Lions, some calls didn’t go their way and they had two tries disallowed by the touchline, but they were solidly tested by a top international team who are certainly making inroads in the competition.
The Jaguares’ loose trio worked tirelessly, especially Tomas Lezana and Guido Petty while captain Agustin Creevy and lock Marcos Kremer has to be among the top players in the game with a performance like this.
But while the Jaguares were good at shutting down the Lions’ attack, strong on defence and scored when they had the chance, it certainly felt like the Lions were not at their best and were way too loose, and being punished for it.
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The match was a real arm wrestle, with neither side gaining too much of an ascendancy but the Lions did make inroads with a mass substitution late in the second half that turned the momentum in their favour, as they sent six players on at once.
It gave them that little extra impetus they needed, stopped the rot that they were experiencing and showed that it takes a lot to beat this side at Ellis Park.
Still, they will know they were in a dogfight, and this was a game that shows that the expansive approach isn’t always the best one, with this being one of those games that needed be ground out.
The Jaguares started like a house on fire, keeping the ball well and more importantly, keeping it away from the Lions attack, ensuring they played the opening minutes in the Lions 22, simply waiting for the gaps to come.
And eventually it did, as a succession of offloads punctured the defence, with Matias Orlando grabbing the last pass to score the opening try.
But it wasn’t long before the Lions hit back – this time a virtual carbon copy of the try Harold Vorster scored against the Stormers a week ago, with the midfielder hitting his running line hard and ghosting through the defence with such ease to score.
Warren Whiteley looked to have scored in the corner to give the Lions the lead, but replays showed his foot touched the whitewash and it was ruled null and void.
Whiteley’s miss was short-lived though, as the Lions took the lead a few minutes later when Lionel Mapoe showed some magic, breaking the line in the midfield and then throwing the perfect dummy to beat Ramiro Moyano and put the Lions in front.
They took this lead into halftime, but then their exuberance became their enemy as the Jaguares hit back twice in the opening 10 minutes to stun the home crowd.
First it was several waves of attacks that saw Rodrigo Baez score on the overlap on the left wing, with the Lions defence stretched to the limit.
Then a loose pass by Mapoe on attack fell perfectly for the Jaguares to counter, with lock Guido Petti doing excellent work to duck under three tacklers and score.
The Lions were then reduced to 14 when Vorster was yellow carded for a team infringement in the 22, and certainly looked to be losing the battle as the clock ticked closer to the hour mark.
A bold move to send six substitutes on at 57 minutes – including a new front row – paid dividends as the Lions suddenly looked more alive. Their setpiece and maul looked dangerous, and won several penalties for them and they made inroads upfield.
Sylvian Mahuza stepped out as he looked to have scored an excellent try down the far touchline but it didn’t matter much.
Andries Coetzee, playing in his 50th game, found a gap, found Vorster who passed to Courtnal Skosan, with the winger cleverly darting inside and then passing out to Ackermann, taking out the Santiago Cordero as a defender in the process and letting Ackermann run in at the corner.
With the scores level the Lions pressed forward, and when the penalty came, Jantjies had no hesitation in shooting it home, and giving his side the spoils.
Emirates Lions – tries: Harold Vorster, Lionel Mapoe, Ruan Ackermann
Conversions: Elton Jantjies (3). Penalty: Elton Jantjies
Jaguares – tries: Matias Orlando, Rodrigo Baez, Guido Petti
Conversions: Nicolas Sanchez (3)