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Lions roar back to beat Hurricanes at Ellis Park

Epic comeback by the home side after being blown away in the first half by Hurricanes

30 July 2017 - 00:00 By LIAM DEL CARME

The Lions set up a red-letter day next Saturday against the seven-time champions the Crusaders, but they had to weather the eye of the storm to get there.
They were blown off the park in the first half by Category Four gusts from the Hurricanes, who mercilessly capitalised on the home team's mistakes. And there were many.
A pall descended over Ellis Park when flank Ardie Savea ran clear in the 31st minute as it then seemed the Lions' Super Rugby hopes were disappearing into the distance.
The visitors had shot out to a commanding 22-3 lead but the Lions showed fortitude and clawed their way back into the contest.
Poor handling had cost them in the first half, but they grew more comfortable and then confident in possession. Their relentless pursuit of five-pointers started to bear fruit just before the break and by the hour mark they had caught up with the Canes.
Inspired by Ross Cronje's incisive play behind the scrum, Harold Vorster's toil in midfield, not to mention the Trojan work of their tight-five with Franco Mostert and Jacques van Rooyen in the vanguard, the Lions dominated the second half.
The ever-alert visitors remained intuitive counter punchers and the adroit handling from the Barrett brothers - Beauden and Jordie - as well as Nehe Milner-Skudder and Ngani Laumape made them a great threat.
The composure that was such a hallmark of the Lions play before the June break had all but deserted them in the first half but they splendidly reassembled themselves.
Van Rooyen got the fightback under way when he summoned Herculean strength to propel himself over the tryline in the 39th minute. It gave the Lions hope and belief.The hosts, trailing since the eighth minute, regained the lead through a wonderfully constructed try by Vorster. They kept prodding and probing at the Canes defence before the ever-energetic Kwagga Smith made the decisive bust in the build-up.
The home team played with greater cohesion as the game progressed and by the end it was clear the Hurricanes were a beaten side.
Lions captain Jaco Kriel pointed to his side's composure when they were under the cosh in the first half.
"We spoke about it in the week, those moments when you are under your poles in a play-off match," he said. "The guys showed great calmness at a time we needed to be."
Questions were raised about the Lions' credentials as Super Rugby contenders following a league campaign that steered them clear from New Zealand opposition. They answered those questions with fist-thumping authority here yesterday and they can look forward to the clash against the mighty Crusaders with a spring in their step.
Now they have a date with the Crusaders, Super Rugby's ultimate over-achievers.
For outgoing coach Johan Ackermann it is potentially a date with destiny.
• In the curtain-raiser the Golden Lions beat Griquas 48-43 in their Currie Cup match...

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