Lions hold on just enough to pip the Waratahs
This match, for much of its duration yesterday, gave credence to the maxim that possession is nine-tenths of the law.
At the end of it the Lions held onto the ball just about long enough to repel a feisty Waratahs side who will feel a touch unfortunate; they are leaving these shores empty-handed. They have also lost five of their last six matches in Super Rugby.
The win, however, breathes new life into the Lions' campaign following their tour that yielded measured results.
Neither side were prepared to admit they would be occupying stools in the Last Chance Saloon in this clash, but the result may have grave consequences for the Waratahs. They were much improved and disrupted the Lions on all fronts. The Lions only hit the front after the break.
When the Lions went into the lead, they did so splendidly. Four minutes into the second half, flank Kwagga Smith exacted a turnover with the Waratahs hot on the attack.
Harold Vorster punched the initial hole in the Waratahs' defence and after the ball was shifted to the right Warren Whiteley linked with Stephan Lewies, who transferred to Malcolm Marx, who had the gumption to look to his outside where Courtnall Skosan ranged up without a defender in sight. Some of it was breathlessly audacious.
That the Lions were struggling to make meaningful inroads was betrayed by the fact that they, almost totally out of character, opted to go for goal instead of going for touch.The Shaun Reynolds penalty in the end made the difference and the Lions will be mightily relieved they got over this hurdle.As you'd come to expect from a 3pm kick-off, it was fast and frenetic from the outset. The ball was moved across the width of the field with both teams, more often than not, making telling inroads.Ordinarily there would have been concern in the Waratahs camp that they would not last the distance in Gauteng's thin air, but they had been camped out here for a fortnight. Besides, they have crafty and intuitive ball players.They also stood firm in the scrum, a pursuit in which they failed dismally a week ago when their front-rankers were gored by the Bulls.The Waratahs also fronted up in their maul defence, despite Lewies's towering presence in the lineout.Despite their shortcomings, the Lions will be pleased they got through this one.Lions(19) 29Waratahs (21) 28Lions - Tries: Aphiwe Dyantyi, Stephan Lewies, Kwagga Smith, Courtnall Skosan. Conversions: Elton Jantjies (3). Penalty: Shaun Reynolds.Waratahs - Tries: Nick Phipps, Michael Hooper, Rob Simmons, Thomas Staniforth. Conversions: Bernard Foley (4).