The Lions almost pulled off one of the greatest comebacks in Super Rugby final history on Saturday, only to be denied by a Crusaders side who played the big moments better than their hosts.
KweséESPN presents a minute-by-minute run down of the crucial moments that influenced the result at Ellis Park.
4th minute: Elton Jantjies fluffs his second drop goal attempt in two minutes. Throughout the season the Lions have been successful with ball in hand, but they seemed to alter their game for the final. Jantjies kicked away quick ball that could have been better used on attack.
8th minute: The Lions launch an attack in the Crusaders half. They go through multiple phases, but Jantjies gets isolated and the ball is turned over. Crusaders left wing Seta Tamanivalu manages to break free from his own 22 and runs in for the first try of the match untouched.
Crusaders Jack Goodhue is tackled by Crusaders Kwagga Smith during the Super Rugby final at Ellis Park. Phil Magakoe/AP Photo
12th minute Crusaders kicked a lot of ball early in the playoffs, mainly because of the wet conditions in Christchurch. However, they were keen to keep the ball in hand in the dry conditions of Ellis Park and scored their second try via Jack Goodhue with some strong, direct running.
25th minute: Lions finally get on the scoreboard through a Jantjies penalty from the halfway line. The Lions have had their moments on attack, but the Crusaders have defended strongly and were even better at the breakdown by slowing the Lions’ ball down.
32nd minute: Crusaders fullback David Havili kicks the ball out on the full, and the Lions manage to get a penalty in the visitors’ 22 after Tamanivalu is penalised for a deliberate knock down just outside his 22. The Lions opt to go for touch, but the Crusaders’ maul defence is solid and the Lions’ attack is repelled. The home should have taken the points on offer.
38th minute: The Lions suffer a massive blow when Kwagga Smith is red-carded for taking out Havili in the air. It looked accidental, but Havili fell heavily and the television match official Marius Jonker and referee Jaco Peyper decide on a red card, silencing the stunned Ellis Park crowd. It was the correct decision.
43rd minute: The Crusaders march downfield after the Lions concede a penalty in the visitors’ half. The Crusaders take the ball through the phases, with Jordan Taufua initially going close. The ball then comes out to No. 8 Kieran Reid in the middle of the park, and the All Black loose forward powers his way over to score.
Crusaders No. 8 Kieran Read scores a try during the Super Rugby final. Gianluigi Guercia, Getty Images
58th minute: Lions get a few penalties in quick succession and force a lineout five metres from the Crusaders’ line. The Lions had to score to start something at 3-25 down. However, the Crusaders manage to steal the lineout ball and hoof the ball upfield to ease the pressure.
64nd minute: The introduction of replacement scrumhalf Faf de Klerk and other substitutes has given the Lions the spark they were lacking, and they manage to cross the line for the first time in the match when hooker Malcolm Marx barged over for his 10th Super Rugby try of the season. Jantjies steps up and kicks the conversion from the touchline to give the Lions a glimmer of hope.
68th minute: The Lions are on the rampage and the crowd has recovered from the shock of Smith’s red card. Suddenly, the Crusaders are slipping tackles and the Lions are making a lot of ground. However, replacement centre Rohan Janse van Rensburg, who had been one of the stars to ignite the Lions in the second half, knocks the ball on in the act of scoring.
73rd minute: Replacement prop Corne Fourie goes over for the Lions to the delight of the crowd, and give the South Africans hope of a spectacular comeback with seven minutes to play. However, the Johannesburg fans and their coach Johan Ackermann were to be denied their fairytale ending.
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Key moments of the Super Rugby final
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