Super Rugby

Super Rugby Notebook, Apr 16: Whiteley expresses pride in Lions

Lions skipper Warren Whiteley hailed his team's defensive solidity after a hard-fought 29-22 triumph over Stormers in the meeting of Super Rugby's top two South African franchises.

Elton Jantjies was named man of the match at Ellis Park on Saturday as Lions enhanced their position at the top of the South Africa 2 Conference with victory over the team that leads SA1.

Yet Whiteley was particularly impressed by his side's efforts in restricting the opportunities available to Stormers. After a 43-37 defeat to Crusaders a fortnight ago, Lions have given up just 31 points across their last two matches.

"[Defence coach] JP Ferreira has done a fantastic job with us," said Whiteley at the post-match presentation.

"We weren't happy against the Crusaders with our defence and the last two weeks we've definitely made massive step-ups. Tonight we held firm and I'm proud of the boys."

Elsewhere on Saturday, the Brumbies claimed a long-awaited win at the home of the Waratahs, while Blues and Bulls also recorded victories.

 

THE LOWDOWN

Blues 23-18 Sharks

A solo score from Rieko Ioane in the second half proved crucial as Blues - bottom of the New Zealand Conference - won for only the third time this season.


Waratahs 20-26 Brumbies

Joe Tomane's hat-trick ensured the Brumbies won at Allianz Stadium for the first time since 2002. There was a notable landmark in defeat for Israel Folau, who equalled Lote Tuqiri's record of 29 Super Rugby tries for the Waratahs. 

 

Bulls 41-22 Queensland Reds

Chris Feauai-Sautia's try gave Queensland Reds an early lead at Loftus Versfeld, but Bulls were 17-8 up by the interval and pulled further clear thereafter, finishing with five tries to their opponents' three.

 

Lions 29-22 Stormers

The meeting between the two South African Conference leaders proved a tight affair, but tries from Ruan Combrinck and Francois de Klerk - together with the 19-point haul of Jantjies - earned Lions a deserved win.

 

THE KEY MOMENTS

Blues wing Ioane produced a moment of magic in the 65th minute at Eden Park to help his side overcome Sharks. There appeared to be no danger for the South African franchise when Ioane collected a pass on the halfway line, but he evaded one tackle before leaving the remaining defenders trailing in his wake with a stunning run down the right flank. An Ihaia West conversion put Blues ahead and Sharks could not respond. 

The Waratahs came from 12-0 down to lead the Brumbies 17-12 after half an hour, but the visitors had the perfect response: skipper Stephen Moore crossing from a trademark rolling maul. Christian Lealiifano's conversion ensured the Brumbies went into the break ahead and they did not relinquish the upper hand again.

 

THE REACTION

Moore said this week's shock retirement of Ita Vaea on health grounds served as inspiration for his team. "A lot of the boys were very close to Ita," said the Brumbies captain. "That was a big shock to us earlier in the week. We did speak before the game about the fact that he can't ever play footy again and maybe that motivated us a little bit."

Lions fly-half Jantjies reflected modestly on his man-of-the-match showing against Stormers, stating: "I just want to give thanks to the team, I think they make it easy for nine and 10 to make the decisions. It was a complete performance."

 

THE UPSHOT

Stormers remain top of the South African Group, despite a second defeat of the campaign. Brumbies now hold a four-point lead over Melbourne Rebels in the Australian Conference.