Ruthless Hurricanes put Lions to the sword
The Lions face an agonising wait, as well as a trip to Loftus Versfeld next week before they can confirm their place in the quarterfinals of Super Rugby following a damaging 37-17 loss at Ellis Park Stadium on Saturday.
Even if they get into the play-offs however, this performance cast serious doubt about their ability to go deep into this season’s competition.
On Saturday they were exposed by a ruthless, plucky and street smart Hurricanes team who disrupted them at every turn.
While the Hurricanes brought the same belligerence that earned them a win over the Sharks last week into this contest, they also injected a dash of swagger when they needed to.
Both those elements helped inflict a defeat on the Lions that puts their play-off qualification in peril.
What was even more impressive about the Hurricanes performance was that they achieved this win without the talismanic influence of flyhalf Beauden Barrett.
Although his name was on the original team sheet there was no Barrett who was supposed to play his 100th Super Rugby match in concert with scrumhalf TJ Perenara.
Just why the Hurricanes would want to engage in that kind of subterfuge is anyone’s guess.
Having already lost Matt Proctor to injury against the Sharks it meant the visitors pushed a reshaped backline into action.
The Lions also had to do some rearranging but that came as a consequence of on field activity.
Kwagga Smith left the field with a hamstring injury in the 26th minute with a hamstring injury.
His departure meant the Lions lost considerable presence at the ruck and although Marnus Schoeman brings his own dynamism, the Hurricanes were the superior side at the breakdown.
What also conspired against the Lions was that they didn’t get the kind of traction in the scrum that had been such a hallmark of their set piece play in recent weeks.
Even when the Lions’ forwards had periods in which they dominated the hosts were unable to make significant inroads on the scoreboard.
In the first half the Hurricanes’ game management largely centred around percentage plays in which kicking for territory became paramount.
Perenara generously applied the boot as the Hurricanes sought to make territorial advances but often Lions’ fullback Andries Coetzee repelled them with raking touch finders.
The visitors fastidiously stuck to that script until the start of the second half when they put the hammer down.
Peter Umaga-Jensen cut a constant, robust presence at outside centre, while Jordie Barrett did everything expected of him with aplomb.
The Lions fell away in the second half as the visitors upped their risk-reward ratio.
LIONS (10) 17
Tries: Aphiwe Dyantyi (2). Conversions: Shaun Reynolds (2). Penalty: Reynolds.
HURRICANES (10) 37
Tries: Ben Lam (2), Dane Coles (2), Ngane Laumape. Conversions: Jordie Barrett (3). Penalties: Barrett (2).