Outstanding second half defence by the BNZ Crusaders kept the Lions to only one penalty goal as the visitors repeated their Investec Super Rugby final effort of last year to claim a 14-8 win at Emirates Park in Johannesburg on Monday (NZT).

It was a measure of the BNZ Crusaders effort that it was 70 minutes into the game before the Lions were able to employ their feared lineout maul, while the Crusaders, in a rugby example of taking coals to Newcastle, had earlier used the lineout maul to their own advantage.

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The Lions retained their share of the lead with the Melbourne Rebels on 20 points, but the Lions are two games up on most of the sides behind them. The BNZ Crusaders are on 19 points in a share of third.

With flanker Matt Todd having a big day at the breakdown contests with good early support from No.8 Jordan Taufua, the Crusaders turned back early Lions pressure to score two tries in the second half and dictate terms in the game.

A 20-phase defensive effort five minutes from the end denied the Lions a try and they settled for their penalty goal to typify the intensity of defence the Crusaders mustered.

Making the most of crowding the midfield with their big forwards in the first half, the Lions were able to penetrate, especially through strong runnings from lock and captain Franco Mostert, hooker Malcolm Marx and dynamic No.8 Hacjivah Dayimani, and all featured in the build-up play that saw wing Madosh Tambwe cross for the first try 13 minutes into the game.

Tambwe immediately blotted his copybook when dropping the restart. The Lions defence were caught offside in front of the goalposts and captain Sam Whitelock opted for a scrum - first five-eighths Mitchell Hunt lobbed a long pass to the left wing where George Bridge was unmarked for the easiest of tries in the 19th minute. However, on TMO inspection the pass was ruled forward.

Five minutes later the same BNZ Crusaders pair were involved in a similar play, but this time referee Jaco Peyper blew before Bridge got across the line.

The BNZ Crusaders had their opportunities in the first half and enjoyed 62 percent possession and 71 percent territory, but found the Lions defence tough to break while key turnovers were also conceded, usually at the hands of Marx.

Crusaders pressure mounted when the Lions tried to run the ball out of their own half. That proved vital for the visitors and they showed great patience as they battered at the Lions brick wall defence and finally Whitelock ended the 13th phase by slipping around the side of a ruck to score in the corner in the 49th minute.

They backed up immediately when employing the rolling lineout maul again to tie in the Lions forwards and then unleash replacement wing Manasa Mataele who got a short pass off the ruck to plough through the defence and then off-load in the tackle to centre Jack Goodhue for the 52nd minute try.

Another try was denied the BNZ Crusaders in the 65th minute - Bridge ran the ball back up and when Mataele received it on the right, he appeared to have linked with Todd who passed for David Havili to run in and score. However, a TMO check revealed Mataele had stepped on the sideline.

Bridge had a dice with a yellow card for a high contest in the air but only a penalty was awarded and the BNZ Crusaders controlled the final stages to claim a key, and deserved, win.

Scorers: Lions 8 (Madosh Tambwe try; Elton Jantjies pen) BNZ Crusaders 14 (Sam Whitelock, Jack Goodhue tries; Mitchell Hunt 2 con). HT: 5-0

 

Match report courtesy of www.superrugby.co.nz