Stormers snatch Super victory from jaws of the Lions
This Super Rugby match served up the most thrillingly unlikely climax after the Lions had to resurrect themselves twice to remain in the contest, eventually losing 33-30 to the Stormers at Ellis Park.
The Stormers led 18-15 at half time.
Somehow the Lions were ahead on the scoreboard when the clock had reached 80 minutes but the Stormers, who had held the whip hand for most of the afternoon, found a way to salvage a win that keeps them unbeaten after three rounds.
The try by Ruhan Nel after a multi-phased move was like a stake to the heart for the Lions, who had made a stirring comeback.
At 3-12 after just 22 minutes the Lions looked in danger of losing touch with the rampant Stormers and at 15-26 after 48 minutes they again stood at the precipice.
On both occasions they reached deep within and displayed huge amounts of courage against a Stormers who had set the pace but were fading in the final quarter.
The comeback was in large parts orchestrated by flyhalf and captain Elton Jantjies who extended his range of influence as the shadows lengthened. Up-front flank Vincent Tshituka toiled hard before he was replaced deep into the contest, while Tyrone Green sparkled from time to time.
The bump and grind method saw them make inroads and they enjoyed much of the territory and possession in an eight-minute stretch that saw them claw their way back into the contest at the half-hour mark.
It was, however, the Lions' sins earlier in the game that perhaps caught up with them at the death.
This match proved two things. The Lions will be chasing their tails all season if they don’t fix their wonky set pieces; and the despite recording their third straight win in a row, the Stormers' defence is penetrable, after all.
The Cape side conceded their first points of the campaign here but they exerted enough control, and occasionally class, to keep the Lions at bay and solidify their position at the top of the South African conference.
The Lions' set piece deficiencies, which were a topic of much discussion after their win against the Reds, seemed to grow wider in dimension in this game. Their woes in the scrum continued but the imprecision and lack of coordination also permeated their line-out. It invited undue pressure.
Even after Lions tighthead Jannie du Plessis was substituted in the 49th minute and his Stormers opposite number Wilco Louw left the field injured, the hosts struggled in the scrums.
In the second half an even more alarming trend started to develop. The Stormers, who were already more assertive in the collision thanks to Juarno Augustus, Pieter-Steph du Toit and brother Johan, were bossing the breakdown.
Scrum penalties started to mount and the Lions, apart from a bright eight-minute patch leading up to the half-hour mark, could not gain any traction.
For much of the second half the Lions, and indirectly those in attendance, had to listen to the ditty “Don’t stop believing … ” through the public address system as the home side appeared short of inspiration, and indeed redemption. It sparked them into action.
LIONS (15) 30
Tries: Andries Coetzee, Courtnall Skosan, Elton Jantjies, Dan Kriel. Conversions: Jantjies (2). Penalties: Jantjies (2).
STORMERS (18) 33
Tries: Juarno Augustus, Godlen Masimla, Sergeal Petersen, Ruhan Nel. Conversions: Damian Willemse (2). Penalties: Willense (3).