Lions will host the final
By Roger Childs
The Crusaders beat the Chiefs 27-13 and the Lions put the Hurricanes away 44-29.
Two decisive wins? Yes and No. The home team scored 4 tries to one in Christchurch. While in South Africa it was 6 to 4.
But in Johannesburg, the referee controversially sent Beauden Barrett to the sin-bin when the Hurricanes were leading 29-22.
The Lions capitalised by scoring 14 points in the following ten minutes, to put the game out of reach of the visitors.
The referee at Ellis Park was South African, Jaco Peyper. (There should have been an official from a neutral country.) However, in the first half his officiating was even-handed. There was a deliberate knock down by one of the Lions backs and this professional foul could have warranted a yellow card, instead of a penalty.
The Hurricanes had raced out to a 22-3 lead in the first half with three very good tries, but a late score brought the home team within 12 points. Then two quick Lions tries had them back to level pegging at 22-22.
However, there were question marks over both scores. Half back Ross Cronje scored the first after a dart from the base of the scrum, but there was the suggestion that he might have lost control of the ball as he dotted down on the line. Peyper did not go to the Television Match Official (TMO) to check, nor did he for Malcolm Marx’s subsequent try.
Marx went over the line in a mass of players and there was no clear view of him actually pressing the ball over the line. Using the TMO in both cases would have confirmed or denied whether tries had been scored.
The Hurricanes responded with a very good try by Laumape, after crisp backline passing, to take the lead 29-22. It was very close contest, and who knows how it would have gone if Peyper hadn’t given the Lions a clear advantage in the 58th minute.
With the Lions on the offensive, Beauden Barrett made a crucial tackle, the ruck formed around him and he tried to extract himself. As he pulled himself back the ball came with him and it was subsequently knocked-on by one of the Hurricanes forwards.
Peyper ruled that Barrett had committed a professional foul and he was binned. But Barrett did not use his hands or pull the ball back with his feet. It just came back as he was trying to get out of the ruck. The correct decision should have been a scrum to the Lions or, at most, a penalty to the home side. As mentioned above, the deliberate knock down in the first half was clearly a professional foul but only resulted in a penalty.
Unfortunately, with Barrett off the Lions capitalised on their one player advantage to score two converted tries.
It was always going to be a tight game, but unfortunately Peyper’s poor judgement gave the home team an unfair advantage.
So the Lions had another fortuitous victory after having won their quarter final over the Sharks last week with a penalty in the dying minutes.
Final in Johannesburg
The Crusaders are now on their way to the Republic for next Saturday’s deciding match.
Let’s hope there is a neutral referee and that both teams keep their fifteen players on the field for the full 80 minutes.