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Johannesburg’s Lions moved back to the top of the Super Rugby standings with a 57-21 victory over the Southern Kings at Ellis Park.
The Chiefs had overtaken the Lions earlier in the round but the Lions bonus point victory puts the Lions one point ahead of the Chiefs with one round to play.
The Lions outscored the Southern Kings by eight tries to three in the match which is one more than the seven tries they scored in the 10-45 victory over the Kings earlier in the season.
The Lions did however need a strong second half performance to dispatch the struggling Kings.
The Lions saw little ball in the opening half, with the Kings at times enjoying over 60 percent possession. At half-time the Lions had a slender 17-7 lead, but the half-time talk from coach Johan Ackermann was evident as the Lions stepped up more than just a few gears as the apparent gulf in class between the teams became clear.
Ultimately, the Lions outscored the visitors eight tries to three and would be pleased with a convincing performance.
With the win, the Lions top the overall log with 52 points, one ahead of the Chiefs of New Zealand.
Lions centre Rohan Janse van Rensburg dotted down under the posts in the second minute of the match after the initial linebreak was made by wing Ruan Combrinck. Flyhalf Elton Jantjies nudged over the conversion to make it 7-0 with the game still in its infancy.
The Kings hit back in the 14th minute as scrumhalf James Hall went over after the visitors had camped in the Lions 22 for the better part of 10 minutes. Number 10 Louis Fouche made no mistake with the conversion to level the scores at 7-7.
On the half-hour mark, the Lions were rewarded after an extended stay in the Kings 22 when they were awarded a penalty. Jantjies obliged with the three points to take the Lions out to a 10-7 lead.
Almost immediately after the restart, Jantjies made a quick break inside his own half before offloading with fullback Andries Coetzee receiving the ball near the touchline as he sprinted away from the Kings defence and scored in the corner. Jantjies again was accurate with the boot as he made it 17-7.
Lions number nine Faf de Klerk spotted a gap in the Kings defence just outside their 22 in the 48th minute and darted through for the score under the posts to begin the second period strongly for the Lions. Jantjies again was on target with the conversion to make it 24-7.
Against the run of play Kings centre Stefan Watermeyer read some loose Lions play well to hang onto an intercept and dive over under the posts in the 53rd minute. Fouche added the extra two to make it 24-14.
The Kings were reduced to 14-men in the 56th minute when midfielder Shane Gates received a yellow card, and after a handful of phases Lions lock Franco Mostert broke through two defenders to dot down for his first Super Rugby try. The conversion was no problem for Jantjies as he made the score 31-14 in favour of the hosts.
The Kings went two men down just after the hour mark when centre Edgar Marutlulle also received a yellow card.
The Lions mauled their way over for the bonus point try in the 64th minute. Malcom Marx held onto the ball at the back of the pack, and fell over the line in the corner for an easy try courtesy of some dominant forward play. Jantjies again made no mistake from the touchline to see the Lions out to a comfortable 38-14 lead.
After the Lions score, Ackermann brought on a number of replacements.
The floodgates began to open up in the 69th minute, with Janse van Rensburg grabbing an intercept before surging over the line under the posts and his second try of the match. Combrinck was handed the kicking duties, and nailed the conversion from in front to make it 45-14.
The rampant Lions then began to break the Kings line almost at will and replacement Sylvian Mahuza made a fiery diagonal run to score next to the posts in the 70th minute. Combrinck added the extra two as the score ballooned to 52-14.
Try number eight on the night for the Lions was dotted down by wing Courtnall Skosan in the corner, and Combrinck missed the first Lions conversion of the night as the hosts led 57-14.
The Kings had the last say as prop Schalk Ferreira barged over in the corner after the hooter, with Fouche adding the extra two to finish the scoring.
Next week in the final round of the regular Super Rugby season the Kings play the Stormers in Cape Town and the Lions travel to Buenos Aires to play the Jaguares.
Final Score Lions 57 (17) Southern Kings 21 (7)
Tries -R. Janse Van Rensburg 2, A.Coetzee, F. de Klerk, F.Mostert, M.Marx ,S.Mahuza, C.Skosan
Pen – E.Jantjies
Con -E.Jantjies 5, R.Combrinck 2
Tries – J. Hall, S.Watermeyer, S.Ferreira
Con – L.Fouche 3
Cards – S.Gates (55th min yellow), E.Marutlulle (60th min yellow)
Referee: Jaco van Heerden
Assistant Ref 1:Jaco Peyper
Assistant Ref 2:Ben Crouse
TMO : Johann Greeff
Dylan Smith , Malcolm Marx , Julian Redelinghuys , Andries Ferreira , Franco Mostert , Jaco Kriel (c) , Warwick Tecklenburg, Ruan Ackermann , Faf de Klerk , Elton Jantjies , Courtnall Skosan , Rohan Janse Van Rensburg , Lionel Mapoe , Ruan Combrinck , Andries Coetzee
Replacements : Armand Van Der Merwe , Corne Fourie , Jacques van Rooyen , Lourens Erasmus, Cyle Brink, Ross Cronje , Howard Mnisi , Sylvian Mahuza.
15: Malcolm Jaer , 14: Lukhanyo Am , 13: Stefan Watermeyer , 12: Shane Gates (VC) , 11: Wandile Mjekevu , 10: Louis Fouche , 9. James Hall , 8: Aidon Davis , 7: Stefan Willemse , 6: Andisa Ntsila (Debut) , 5: JC Astle , 4: Schalk Oelofse , 3: Jacobie Adriaanse , 2: Edgar Marutlulle (C) , 1: Sti Sithole
Replacements : 16: Martin Bezuidenhout , 17: Schalk Ferreira , 18: Tom Botha , 19: Sintu Manjezi (Debut) , 20: Jacques Engelbrecht , 21: Ntando Kebe , 22: Dewald Human , 23: Jeremy Ward (Debut)
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