SYDNEY, April 20 (Reuters) - South Africa’s Lions weathered a strong start from the New South Wales Waratahs then controlled the tempo of the game and much of the ball as they recorded a 29-0 victory over the Australian conference leaders on Friday.
Winger Michael Tambwe scored the only try of the first half, while Kwagga Smith, Harold Vorster and Marnus Schoeman crossed in the second for the visitors who only arrived in Australia on Wednesday but showed no signs of jet lag.
The bonus-point victory moved them to 30 points at the top of the South African conference, 16 ahead of the Bulls, who have two games in hand.
The Waratahs and Rugby Australia have been embroiled in controversy for the last two weeks after injured fullback Israel Folau made anti-gay comments on social media.
The Sydney-based side’s coach Daryl Gibson said while many of his players did not support Folau’s views on homosexuality he was pleased with the way they had managed to block out the furore as they prepared for the Lions clash.
However, the home side made numerous errors at the Sydney Football Stadium, looked short of attacking ideas and not like a team that had won their last four games to climb to the top of the Australian conference on 24 points, three ahead of the Melbourne Rebels.
The loss could not have come at a worse time for Gibson’s team as they have a bye, then face four successive matches against New Zealand opposition, although the first is against the Auckland Blues, who are last in their conference.
The Waratahs found it difficult to keep pace with the Lions in a sloppy first spell that was punctuated with numerous handling errors by the hosts while on attack.
The Lions also shut down the Waratahs’ only attacking weapon in giant winger Taqele Naiyaravoro, with the home side showing little else in terms of innovation or penetration.
Tambwe scored the only try in the first half after the Lions sucked in Waratahs’ defenders close to the ruck and then spread the ball wide quickly to exploit the space and overlaps.
The visitors’ forwards took charge at the set piece in the second half and were able to extend their lead through tries to flanker Smith, inside centre Vorster and replacement loose forward Schoeman.
Flyhalf Elton Jantjies added the additional points with his boot.
Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by William Maclean