Lions outmuscle Jaguares in battle of big cats
One of rugby, in fact, professional sport’s great truisms was stretched to the limit by the Lions here at Emirates Airline Park on Saturday afternoon.
They were barely recognisable in personnel, and perhaps as a result performance, from the team that was so haplessly trampled by the Bulls a week earlier.
If Lions coach Swys de Bruin wanted a reaction, the cubs he pushed into battle against the grizzled Jaguares announced themselves with claws fully deployed.
With a team laden with players from their youth structures as a direct consequence from their gross under achievement against the Bulls, the Lions set about their task with alacrity.
These cubs were eager beavers in a first half that yielded four tries which helped catapult the Lions into a 26-13 lead.
Whereas a week ago they were like rabbits in headlights against the confrontational Bulls, this time they were less resigned to fate.
They used the width of the field to shift the point of attack thus exacting a lung busting toll on weary travellers from distant shores.
The Jaguares to their credit finished the stronger side.
The hosts though were less prone to error than they were a week ago but much of that confidence cascaded as a result of the dominance they were able to establish up front.
Despite the raft of changes the Lions kept their front row in tact. Good thing they did, because Dylan Smith, Malcolm Marx and Carlu Sadie were hugely instrumental in slipping the Jaguares scrum into the reverse in the scrums.
The confidence they derived from that facet permeated the rest of their game. Kwagga Smith roamed the wide open plains, Marnus Schoeman dug everywhere like a boxer pup with amnesia, while the backs stretched their legs properly for the first time this season.
De Bruin has had to answer questions about his backs’ inactivity on the score sheet this season but that all changed on Saturday.
The introduction of Wandisile Simelane at outside centre helped inject urgency and energy to the Lions cause. He was one of the first half try scorers and he is likely to score many more in Super Rugby.
Inside him Elton Jantjies was more assured, while Ross Cronjé was again a steadying presence.
Jantjies who was two points short of reaching 1000 points in Super Rugby before this match broke the four figure mark with a try in the 26th minute.
If the Jaguares needed a quick score to get themselves back into the contest after the break, they found that things quickly escalated against them.
The Lions, were even more voracious after they re-emerged from the tunnel.
They caught the visitors cold with tries by Schoeman and a brace by Courtnall Skosan to effectively kill the game as a contest by the 50th minute.
LIONS (26) 47
Tries: Courtnall Skosan (2), Rhyno Herbst, Elton Jantjies, Kwagga Smith, Wandisile Simelane, Marnus Schoeman. Conversions: Jantjies (6).
JAGUARES (13) 39
Tries: Matias Orlando, Martin Landajo, Julian Montoya, Gaspar Baldunciel, Mattias Moroni, Joaquin Tuculet. Conversion: Joaquin Diaz Bonilla, Juan Cruz Mallia (2). Penalty: Bonilla.