JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Centre Lionel Mapoe scored a brace of tries as the Lions claimed a 26-19 victory over the Sharks in a fierce South African Super Rugby derby at Ellis Park on Saturday.
The Lions, who have been runners-up in the competition for the last two seasons, added two more tries through wing Aphiwe Dyantyi and flank Kwagga Smith.
The Sharks looked slick with the ball in hand and managed three tries themselves as flyhalf Robert du Preez, and wings Sibusiso Nkosi and Makazole Mapimpi scored.
The home side dominated the scrums and that ultimately proved the difference in an entertaining contest between South Africa’s two most likely challengers in Super Rugby this season.
“I’m happy with the result, but not so much our performance,” Lions captain Warren Whiteley said at the post-match presentation. “We lost a lot of ball in contact and made it difficult for ourselves. We just couldn’t finish.
“We know we need to up our performance if we are to get to the business end of this competition.”
The Sharks led through an early try from Du Preez, but after that setback the Lions began to take control of the game and Mapoe ran an excellent line to scythe through the Sharks defence to score.
Even better was to follow when Dyantyi found space out wide, and his kick and chase was perfectly finished.
The Lions were completely dominant in the scrum, with the Sharks unable to win any of their first four set-pieces, starving them of ball with which to go forward as they trailed 14-7 at the break.
The Sharks scored next through Nkosi, but a thrilling break from Lions fullback Andries Coetzee set up the third try for the home side in a move that was finished by Mapoe.
Coetzee turned villain from the kick-off, though, when he knocked the ball on to gift the Sharks a scrum which, now boosted in the front row by experienced Bok Tendai Mtawarira, they won, and Mapimpi crossed for an easy debut try.
But the home side extended their lead to seven points when Smith barged his way over the line from close range, and despite the Sharks spending most of the remainder of the game in the Lions’ 22, they could not find a score to level.
“The scrums disappointed us in the game. Holding the ball in contact was also disappointing,” Sharks captain Ruan Botha said. “You need to win your scrums and your lineouts or you can’t launch, you can’t attack. You can only play in the areas they give you.”
Reporting By Nick Said,; Editing by Neville Dalton