The Lions have defeated the Waratahs 29-28 in a thrilling clash at Ellis Park that saw both sides trade tries throughout the contest. Both teams came out with no regards for defence, scoring three each to leave the score at 21-19 in favour of the Waratahs at half time . But once again, the Waratahs failed to find a way to win in the key moments, losing another close contest thanks to the influence from the likes of Harold Vorster, Malcolm Marx and Egon Seconds.
The first 30 minutes of the match were frenetic as both sides seemed to fail to grasp the concept of playing defence, with both sides trading tries.
The Waratahs got off to a perfect start with Nick Phipps racing away to score inside 5 minutes after lovely link-up play from Karmichael Hunt and Cam Clark burst open the Lions defence to put the Waratahs up 7-0.
The Lions would strike back through Aphiwe Dyanti who muscled his way over the line after a perfect crash ball by Elton Jantjies to even it up. Credit must go to Malcolm Marx who put the Lions into prime field position after intercepting the Nick Phipps pass from the lineout 50m out (for the 2nd time in a row).
However, it wouldn’t stay tied for long, as Michael Hooper showed why he spends most of the time on the wing, fooling the defenders with a picturesque dummy before bursting away from the Lions defenders to score.
This effort was matched by the Lions, who bombarded the Waratahs goal-line for the following 5 minutes before Stephan Lewies crossed for his first try for the Lions, Jantjies would convert from close to the sideline to make it 14-14.
Rob Simmons would then put the Waratahs back in front, running an excellent line to break through some weak defence from Sadie and Lewies to run 30m to score under the posts, pushing the Waratahs out to a 21-14 lead.
However, for the 3rd time, the Lions would strike back after flanker Kwagga Smith outsprinted Bernard Foley to dive on a Harold Vorster grubber, Jantjies would miss the conversion to keep the Waratahs ahead 21-19.
The last 5 minutes of the half would see both teams trade handling errors, with the Waratahs maintaining their slim lead into the break, 21-19.
The Lions would take the lead just 3 minutes into the second half, running the ball out of their 22 through some suspect passing to break open the Waratahs defence, allowing Courtnall Skosan to race away to score untouched.
The contest would calm down after this point, with both sides taking turns to gift away possession through wasteful handling errors and cheap penalties.
The Waratahs would once again re-take the lead after substitute Curtis Rona streaked away before being caught just short of the line, which allowed Tom Staniforth to barge his way over on the following phase for his first career try to gift the Waratahs the lead, 28-26.
The Lions would then dominate possession and territory on the back of a string of penalties, culminating with them catching the Waratahs offside, allowing Shaun Reynolds to kick the side back in front 29-28.
Bernard Foley would then take the opportunity to take an ambitious drop goal from 45m out to regain the lead, however, it would just fade to the right.
The Lions (and Egon Seconds) would proceed to control the ball for the last 10 minutes, denying the Waratahs any chance with the ball via death by penalty to secure the victory.
The Turning Point
Hard to single out just one turning point in a match that saw both sides trade tries, however the penalty goal by Reynolds in the 67th minute sealed the result for the Lions, who proceeded to control possession and the game from that moment.
The GAGR MOTM
Harold Vorster was immense for the Lions with the ball in hand, recording 3 line breaks, 7 tackle busts along with a try assist with a perfectly weighted grubber for Smith to score.
Rob Simmons was the Waratahs best during his stint on the field, hardly putting a foot wrong. Hooper put in another typically solid performance (both on the wing and at flanker) along with Beale and Rona off the bench. However once again the Waratahs front rowers got beat up at scrum time, dominated throughout the match regardless of the front row pairing.
Tries: Dyantyi (11′), Lewies (18′), K Smith (31′), Skosan (43′)
Cons: Jantjies 3/4 (11′, 18′, 43′)
Pens: Reynolds 1/1 (66′)
Tries: Phipps (4′), Hooper (13′), Simmons (21′), Staniforth (57′)
Cons: Foley 4/4 (4′, 13′, 21′, 57′)
DG: Foley 0/1