Lions beaten at the death
The MTN Lions suffered a heartbreaking loss as Hurricanes flyhalf Beauden Barrett slotted a penalty two minutes before time to give his team a narrow 30-28 victory at Coca-Cola Park in Johannesburg on Friday night.
The home side will be kicking themselves as they looked to have stolen the match a few minutes earlier when replacement Butch James went over to give them the lead, but a lack of control of their own ball, and a crucial turnover by Hurricanes winger Corey Jane cost them dearly.
Lions coach John Mitchell will not be a happy man, especially with almost 60 per cent possession and a plethora of scoring chances, his side squandered way too many in the process and paid for their mistakes.
In contrast Mark Hammett will be ecstatic that his side snuck this one out, especially away from home and with a very young team.
The Lions will once again look at the results sheet and wonder where they lost it, but after an evening where they conceded nine turnovers, often at critical junctions in the game, their ball control and options have to be questioned. It was this lack of taking control of the game which would eventually cost them.
At least it was a much more entertaining game than the first weekend’s matches, with both sides attempting to give the ball some air and often getting some great reward for it in metres.
After Barrett opened the scoring with an early penalty, the Lions immediately hit back, through a Warren Whiteley drive that led to Jaco Taute exploiting some space and going over in the corner.
Barrett retook the lead a short while later and the ding-dong battle continued as Taute slotted a long range effort.
André Taylor popped up at the end of a movement that saw several phases on attack to give the Hurricanes their first try and a 14-8 lead at the break.
A penalty apiece in the second half and it looked as if the Hurricanes had the Lions' number, but the spirit of the home side popped up again, this time with Franco van der Merwe dotting down from close range.
Again in the lead, the Lions couldn’t hold on as Van der Merwe lost the ball in the tackle and a clever kick by Conrad Smith saw hooker Dane Coles go over untouched after a short sprint for the ball.
Another Lions mistake was punished as the counter found space on the blindside and Corey Jane outsprinted Michael Killian for a crucial try.
The Lions were not done, and another Jantjies penalty kept them in touch, before James went over to give them the lead.
But their joy was short lived, as Jane’s turnover gave them an 18-phase run at the line, eventually milking the penalty for offside and the victory.
This Lions side may still improve, but the sins of their past -- not closing out games when they should have -- haunted them again on Friday night.
MTN Lions – Tries: Jaco Taute, Franco van der Merwe, Butch James. Conversions: Elton Jantjies (2). Penalties: Taute, Jantjies (2).
Hurricanes – Tries: André Taylor, Dane Cole, Corey Jane. Penalties: Beauden Barrett (5).
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