Lions narrowly go down at Ellis Park as Crusaders clinch 8th Super Rugby title
It’s an often overused and irritating cliché, but there is no better way to describe the Lions’ heartbreaking 25-17 Super Rugby final loss to the Crusaders at a packed and raucous Ellis Park on Saturday than ‘so near, yet so far’.
Against the best team of the competition, the Lions came second best in front of their own supporters as the Crusaders lived up to expectations to win the tournament for the eighth time.
Showing big match temperament, the Crusaders scored three tries by Seta Tamanivalu, Jack Goodhoue and the veteran Kieran Read and they managed to hold on in the closing stages to thwart Lions' inspired comeback.
The Lions faced an uphill battle to overcome the 15-3 deficit in the second half as referee Jaco Peyper reduced them to 14 men with a red card to Kwagga Smith just before the half time break for a dangerous tackle on David Havili.
Despite their numerical disadvantage, Lions fought back strong in the second half and they were dully rewarded with two tries by inspirational Karl Marx and Corne Fourie which were converted by Elton Jantjies. The two tries proved not to be enough though.
The Lions started the match brightly by enjoying most of the possession where they threatened the Crusaders 22m area and Jantjies missed a drop goal after four minutes from distance.
The first try of the match went to the visitors through Tamanivalu who ran almost half the field after they turned the ball where Jantjies was caught for Richie Mounga to convert after seven minutes.
It did not take too long before they increased their lead as Goodhoue touched down on the corner after he was released by Read but Mounga failed to convert in the eleventh minute.
Lions conceded a penalty in the 23rd minute for off-side inside their own half but Havili missed the target from about 50m. But Jantjies got it right from similar distance a few minutes later as they finally got their name on the score-sheet.
Four minutes after restart, Crusaders effectively took the match beyond the Lions when veteran All Blacks No 8 Read touched down after they received a penalty advantage for Mounga to convert.
Crusaders increased their lead in the 53rd minute when Mounga found the middle of the poles with a penalty after the Lions were penalised for collapsing the scrum.
Lions revived their faint hopes with a try by Marx that was converted by Jantjies after 64 minutes and Corne Fourie scored their second with seven minutes remaining on the clock that was also converted by Jantjies but the damage was already done.
Tries: Marx, Fourie
Conversions: Jantjies (2)
Penalties: Jantjies (1)
Red Card: Smith
Tries: Tamanivalu, Goodhoue, Read
Conversions: Mounga (2)
Penalties: Mounga (2)