CANBERRA, Australia (AP) The Johannesburg-based Lions got off to a slow start, trailing 3-0 at halftime, before beating the ACT Brumbies 13-6 Friday for their 10th win in 11 matches in Super Rugby.
The win increased the Lions’ first-place lead in the South Africa 2 conference to 14 points over the second-place Sharks.
The Brumbies are in first place in an Australian conference which features no team with a winning record, including the 3-7 Brumbies, who lost their fourth consecutive match.
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Winger James Dargaville had a try disallowed in the opening stages, but Wharenui Hawera’s 18th-minute penalty goal gave the Brumbies the first-half lead.
Lions flyhalf Elton Jantjies leveled the match 10 minutes after the break.
Soon after, Brumbies fullback Aidan Toua threw an errant pass which was pounced on by Lions center Lionel Mapoe, who gave the offload to flanker Kwagga Smith. The former sevens’ star showed an electrifying turn of pace to run more than 60 meters and score the only try of the match.
”It was a real grind out there, and credit to the Brumbies for placing us under a lot of pressure,” Lions captain Warren Whiteley said. ”I’m proud of our guys for the way we held on.”
Earlier Friday, brothers Reiko and Akira Ioane shared three tries as the Auckland-based Blues took a bonus point from a 50-32 win over South Africa’s Cheetahs.
Winger Reiko scored two tries and backrower Akira one as the Blues gathered momentum after a slow start to beat the Bloemfontein-based Cheetahs by eight tries to four, keeping alive their slim chances of a playoff spot.
Reiko Ioane also scored two tries and Akira one in the Blues 40-33 win over the New South Wales Waratahs last weekend, making the Blues brothers an effective fraternal double act along with Beauden and Jordie Barrett and Julian and Ardie Savea from the Wellington-based Hurricanes.
But the Blues were again unimpressive, failing to fully take control of a match against a team ranked 14th on the overall table and which was beaten 62-24 on its home ground last weekend by the unbeaten Crusaders.
The Cheetahs scored the first try of the match through center and captain Francois Venter and the lead changed hands three times before the Blues drew away to a 24-18 halftime lead.
The Blues extended that lead through the third quarter with tries to backrower Steven Luatua, scrumhalf Augustine Pulu and Reiko Ioane – his second – which put them ahead 45-18.
The Cheetahs scored two late tries to replacement hooker Elandre Huggett through driving mauls established at lineouts. Starting hooker Torsten van Jaarsveld scored in the same manner during the first half as the Cheetahs exposed a major weakness in the Blues defense.
Blues captain, hooker James Parsons admitted his team was deficient in its defense against the Cheetahs’ driven mauls and will have to improve that aspect of its play as it prepares to leave New Zealand for a match in South Africa against the Cape Town-based Stormers.
”We have to make sure we sort that out because we can be sure what the Stormers will do,” Parsons said. ”That is probably the only area of concern. Outside of that we’ll ensure the small wins.”