Front Row Grunt

Rugby … with cauliflower ears

Elton-Lionel-Curwin

Elton goes MIA

It was a big game, and the Lions needed a big performance from their flyhalf, but he cracked. TANK LANNING takes a gander at the horror match stats.

The Banana Boys travelled to Johannesburg as underdogs but nearly caused a massive upset against the table-topping Lions, who eventually edged the visitors 23-21 thanks to a last minute long-range shot at goal by Ruan Combrinck.

Jozi’s pride will have to up their game big time next weekend against the Hurricanes, both on the field – where they were uncharacteristically all over the show – but also strategically. It was like nobody had told them this was the playoffs!

Sure they scored three tries to the Shark’s two, but errors almost cost them – 29 of them to be exact. And having to keep ball in hand – they only put ball to boot 16 times, 3 less than the Sharks – the Lions played as if it was an exhibition match instead of a play off. They made 854 metres from a whopping 161 carries, which sounds tremendous, but throw in the errors, and it was a tactic that did not pay off.

And for that, the Sharks deserve a lot of credit. Via a properly abrasive display – without doubt their best of the season – the visitors disrupted the rhythm of last year’s runners up, often looking like the side that wanted it more on the day! They made 170 tackles – 79 more than the Lions, and missed 27 for an 88% success rate, five percent up on the Lions. But it was the 15 dominant tackles – 7 more than the Lions – that spoke to how good their defence was on the day.

Up front they were also good, and were it not for referee Marius van der Westhuizen taking an unfair disliking to the way Thomas du Toit was getting the better of Lions tighthead Ruan Dreyer, the result of this game may well have been very different. Du Toit picked up 3 scrum penalties and was threatened with an early shower by Van der Westhuizen.

That said, it was not as if the home side took advantage of those penalties. Flyhalf Elton Janties suffered a horror day off the tee, missing out on 13 points to deliver a kick success rate of only 38%. He also failed to boss the game, making poor decisions before suffering the wrath of the shepherds’ hook with 20 minutes to play. It was a big game, and the Lions needed a big performance from their flyhalf, but he cracked.

Make those handling errors next week, and play a ball in hand game in their own half like they did on Saturday, and the Canes will make like they did in last year’s final.

CLICK HERE to take a gander at the full match stats.

Author: Tank

Ex WP prop with a fair amount of experience in all things media ...

One Comment

  1. I fully agree. EJ was like an ant on the field and to me very frustrating. Losing 3 points is bad but 13 crucial points unacceptable imho. We have to bring it all on Saturday or go home