Jantjies kicks Lions to just third win
Flyhalf Elton Jantjies succeeded with all seven of his kicks at goal to help the Lions to a 37-32 win over the Rebels on Saturday for just their third Super Rugby victory of the season.
They held on following a fantastic comeback by the Rebels who scored three second-half tries to turn a 24-7 deficit into a 32-27 lead at Ellis Park.
But replacement flanker Jaco Kriel charged down the blindside to score an equalising try, which Jantjies converted from the touchline. He then kicked a penalty on the final hooter to stretch the winning margin to five points.
The Lions played with enormous confidence and freedom in the first half, running in three tries and Jantjies kicked a penalty to give them a 24-0 lead after 36 minutes.
“We had a disappointing first 15-20 minutes, making simple, fundamental errors in good field positions, that gave the Lions lots of possession and, to their credit, they turned that into points,” Rebels coach Damian Hill told a news conference.
The home side made a great start when right wing Lionel Mapoe stepped inside and sent outside centre Waylon Murray over for the opening try after just two minutes.
Flanker Derick Minnie scored two more as the Rebels struggled to get on the front foot against an aggressive defence in the first half.
The Australians finally got some points on the board on the half-time hooter when, after a rolling maul, hooker Ged Robinson emerged with the try which was converted by fullback Julian Huxley.
Having dominated the opening 40 minutes, the Lions lost their focus in the second half, conceding a string of penalties to give the Rebels momentum and territory.
“There was a lack of concentration in the second half, especially defensively, with guys not manning up in the one-on-one tackles,” Lions captain Josh Strauss said.
“If we can keep concentrating for 80 minutes and play like we did in the first 40 minutes, then we’ll be a very dangerous side. We’re still playing for pride and each other.”
Lock Hugh Pyle scored two tries in three minutes for the Rebels.
Huxley converted Pyle’s first try and brought the Rebels to within two points in the 58th minute as he kicked a penalty.
Jantjies replied with a penalty but then turned villain when his clearance kick was charged down by flyhalf Jimmy Hilgendorf for a Rebels try.
Huxley converted to give the Rebels a 29-27 lead and then added a penalty.
But Lions scrumhalf Michael Bondesio caught the Rebels defence napping with a pop-pass down the blindside to Kriel, who powered through the cover defence to score in the corner.
The 21-year-old Jantjies kept his nerve to kick the conversion and give the crowd a happy ending to the Lions’ last home game of the season.
“There’s a good spirit and camaraderie in the group and we’ve consistently shown that when we’re down, we find a way back,” Rebels captain Stirling Mortlock said.
“But too often we let ourselves down first and we need to find a way to be better as a team, to be able to put pressure on the opposition from the start.”