Jantjies wins battle of the boot

RYAN VREDE watched Elton Jantjies kick nine penalties as the Lions beat the Cheetahs 27-25 at Ellis Park.

The match lacked nothing in terms of brutality on defence, with spine-rattling hits in regular supply from both sides. However, a string of breakdown penalties spoiled the attacking flow of the contest. It has been apparent even at this early stage that referees have taken the IRB’s directive to clamp down on this facet of play seriously. Teams will need to make sharp adjustments in this regard in the coming weeks.

In the first half the Cheetahs controlled the ball better through phases and profited from the Lions’ regular infringements at ruck time, Johan Goosen banking three penalties, including a 58m monster, as well as a drop goal from the halfway line. He also converted WP Nel’s try, the prop driving over after one of the few instances in the game where either side played through more than seven phases.

Jantjies responded with four penalties, but the Lions, pinned in their territory for large periods of the first 40 through an intelligent kicking game, squandered the little possession they had. Their cause was further undermined by their acute struggles at the lineout. They regularly picked out a Cheetahs jumper or allowed their feed to be disrupted.

The hosts found their groove in the second half and while they still lacked any notable penetration with ball in hand until late in the piece, they did build pressure in a manner they weren’t able to in the first half. Jantjies and Goosen kept their kicking duel going until Goosen was sin binned for a breakdown infringement with his team leading 25-19. There were opportunities for the visitors to extend their lead with kickable three pointers in Goosen’s absence. Jantjies landed two more as his counterpart watched from the wood, to take the Lions to within a point with 15 minutes to play.

Goosen then went off permanently with 10 to go after taking a solid knock to the jaw. Jantjies missed a challenging kick that would have taken them into the lead but Goosen’s replacement, Sias Ebersohn, made an awful attempt at stretching their lead nine minutes from the end. Jantjies capitalised on that miss, sinking his record-breaking ninth penalty, and the Lions clung on for an important home win.