Rugby: Lions regain top spot by crushing Kings

Elton Jantjies of the Lions. Photo / Getty
Elton Jantjies of the Lions. Photo / Getty

The Lions have recorded a flattering 57-21 bonus-point victory over fellow South Africans Southern Kings in Johannesburg to regain first place in the overall Super Rugby standings.

The Lions went into the penultimate round of the regular season with a one-point advantage over the two-time champion Chiefs.

But an eight-try 50-5 bonus-point triumph by the Chiefs over the Reds of Australia in Brisbane put the pressure back on the Johannesburg outfit.

They responded by also scoring eight tries at Ellis Park stadium -- three of them when the Kings had at least one player in the sin-bin -- to retake top place by a single point.

Already guaranteed a home quarter-final by taking an unassailable lead in the Africa 2 conference last weekend, finishing first overall would mean a home semi-final and final for the South Africans if they continue winning.

The Lions complete their league schedule away to the Argentine Jaguares in Buenos Aires next Saturday while the Chiefs visit the defending champions Highlanders the same day.

Success for the Lions, after leading 17-7 at half-time before a small crowd who braved the southern hemisphere winter chill, equalled their Super Rugby record of five consecutive victories.

Despite the 36-point winning margin, the Lions were not particularly impressive in a match between the strongest and weakest of the six South African sides in Super Rugby.

The Lions took time to establish scrum dominance, were victims of a few line-out steals, committed handling errors and wasted opportunities to score several more tries.

They also benefitted greatly from the sin-binning of Kings centre Shane Gates and skipper and hooker Edgar Marutlulle during the second half.

While both were off the field the Lions scored two converted tries, and a further seven points when the Kings were one man short.

Those scores changed a 24-14 lead into a 45-14 advantage and as the Kings tired in the closing stages, the Lions ran in two more tries.

"The Kings made life really difficult for us during the first half," admitted Lions flanker Jaco Kriel, standing in as skipper for injured loose forward Warren Whiteley.

Marutlulle was upbeat despite the latest heavy loss this season in South Africa, New Zealand and Argentina.

"We fought well and enjoyed playing at Ellis Park. The spirit in this team is amazing," he said.

Centre Rohan Janse van Rensburg (2), full-back Andries Coetzee, scrum-half Faf de Klerk, lock Franco Mostert, hooker Malcolm Marx, substitute back Sylvian Mahuza and winger Courtnall Skosan scored tries for the Lions.

Fly-half Elton Jantjies kicked five conversions and a penalty and winger Ruan Combrinck slotted two conversions.

Scrum-half James Hall, centre Stefan Watermeyer and substitute prop Schalk Ferreira scored a try each for the Kings and all three were converted by fly-half Louis Fouche.


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