The Waratahs kept alive their Super 14 dream when they beat the Lions 38-33 in an eight-try thriller in Johannesburg on Friday.
And in the process the Waratahs knocked compatriots, the Brumbies, out of the top four and ended the Canberra-based side’s season.
Rugby 365 reports that the five-tries-to-three win by the ‘Tahs in Johannesburg saw the lead change hands twice in an exhilarating and breathtaking second half – with the Lions coming from trailing 13-28 at the break to take a 33-28 lead, before the Waratahs snatched the win with 10 points seven-minute blitz.
And they then held off a late charge from the home team, with a forward-pass ruling from the referee denying the Lions what may have been the winning try.
Not only did the Waratahs end their South African tour with a three-match clean sweep, but they also moved into third place on the standings … for the time being.
The men from Sydney will now sit back and watch the rest of the weekend’s action unfold to see if teams like the Crusaders and Sharks can overtake them on the standings.
The Waratahs, looking for four tries, got the first of those as gift – Lions captain André Pretorius making a silly mistake (as he has so often done this season) and from the turnover ball quick hands put fullback Lachie Turner clear and over for the first score. Flyhalf Daniel Halangahu added the conversion and in no time the ‘Tahs were 7-0 up.
The Lions, ever willing, were again undone by their extraordinary high error count – giving away free kicks and turning the ball over through poor option taking.
And the second try for the ‘Tahs came from another Pretorius mistake, as the stand-in captain and flyhalf was again guilty of poor execution of a kick and gifted the Waratahs a counter-attacking opportunity. This time lock Dean Mumm was the man to round of a fine move. Halangahu added the extras for a 14-0 lead inside 10 minutes.
Pretorius eventually put something on the board for his team, kicking a penalty in the 14th minute to open the Lions’ account – 3-14.
The Lions now found some rhythm and in now time they were deep inside Waratahs territory – with great support play setting up the opportunity for scrumhalf Jano Vermaak, who sniped around a ruck to score his team’s first try. Pretorius converted and after 18 minute the Lions were back in the game at 10-14.
And Pretorius continued to make amends for his earlier mistakes when he slotted a drop-goal in the 23rd minute – wobbly it was, but still worth three points, 13-14.
The Lions required some desperate defence to keep the Waratahs out, but the Waratahs were gifted their third try by a Lions mistake at a line-out five metres from their own line – as the long throw landed in the hands of ‘Tahs captain Phil Waugh, who flopped over for his team’s third score. Halangahu added the conversion to make the Lions pay for their high-risk, error-riddled approach – 21-13.
Wing Peter Playford got the bonus-point try in the 33rd minute, as poor defence left him with acres of space in which to jog over. Halangahu made it 28-13 with the conversion.
The Lions, despite winning a couple of kickable penalties, opted to play the same expansive, high-risk game.
And, as was the case for most of the first half, their passing game let them down – with primary school type looped passing adding to some of the ordinary stuff on display throughout the first half.
It allowed the visitors to take a 15-point lead (28-13) into the break.
The Lions got the second half off to the perfect start, with scrumhalf Jano Vermaak scoring after a great turnover ball inside the Waratahs 22. Pretorius added the conversion to narrow it down to eight points – 20-28.
And the home team’s comeback continued with Pretorius slotting his second drop-goal of the evening, making it 23-28.
A shocking air tackle by replacement Sam Norton-Knight, who was lucky not to be carded, gave Pretorius another shot at goal and he landed the penalty to make it a two-point game – 28-26.
And the Waratahs were reduced to 14 men in the 54th minute, when midfielder Timana Tahu was yellow carded for another dangerous tackle. The referee had clearly had enough.
The Lions finally hit the lead in the 59th minute, when No.8 Willem Alberts powered his way over after a quick tap from a free kick and launching a raid upfield. Pretorius added the conversion for a 33-28 with a quarter of the game to go.
With just under 13 minutes remaining, the ‘Tahs stopped the rot when Halangahu slotted a penalty – 33-31.
And they regained the lead with a Tom Carter try after a patient build-up of phase play. Halangahu’s conversion made it 38-33 with four minutes left on the clock.
The Lions then launched another raid on the Waratahs’ line and centre Deon van Rensburg went over, but the referee ruled that it was a forward pass.
It left the Waratahs with a defending scrum five metres from their own line – a scrum that went down four times and then Halangahu booted it into touch for a nail-biting 38-33 win.
Man of the match: For the Lions Doppies la Grange was always dangerous with ball in hand, scrumhalf Jano Vermaak enhanced his Bok prospects with some very inventive play, while No.8 Willem Alberts was strong with the ball in hand and brutal on defence. You can look to the line-out work of Will Caldwell and Dean Mumm for the Waratahs, or the backs that were so devastating when the Lions coughed up possession. However, out award goes to Waratahs captain and flank Phil Waugh, who played himself to a standstill in this high-paced game.Tweet