Jaguares maul Lions
Argentinian flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez played a controversial part as his team mauled the Emirates Lions 36-24 in their Vodacom Super Rugby match in Buenos Aires on Saturday night.
Sanchez scored a try, kicked three penalties and three conversions as his team showed just how difficult it will be to beat them at home this year with a powerful performance in front of a fiercely partisan crowd.
But while his 20 points were crucial to the winning effort, he was lucky not to be sent off the field twice as he lived dangerously, getting away with two foul play calls that normally would have been cards and possible citings.
We may still hear more about both incidents should the citing commissioner have a look at them, but they certainly would have left the Lions fuming at the way Sanchez wasn’t taken to task when the visitors had to play for 20 minutes of the game without a full complement with two yellow cards for high tackles.
The first incident came on the stroke of halftime, where Sanchez launched an up and under, but found himself in no-man’s land as Anthony Volminck was perfectly positioned to catch the ball. The Jaguares flyhalf leaped in the air and looked as if he had put his knee out, colliding with Volminck as both fell to the ground in what could only be described as an ugly challenge.
Referee Nick Bryant – who last year angered the Jaguares when he reffed them against the Kings by awarding two reds and a yellow in Port Elizabeth – was extremely lenient on Sanchez as he ruled he had simply mistimed his jump and gave a penalty.
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Sanchez was there in the spotlight in the second half as well, as he was sanctioned by Bryant for a “grass cutter” – dangerous tackle without arms – which would normally have been a yellow card. Bryant ruled it was a simple mistime again and he received nothing more than a penalty against him.
Despite this, Sanchez’s teammates – which included 23 Argentinian internationals in their side – were exceptionally good on the night and only a late Lions flurry, which saw two tries in the last 10 minutes, made the scoreline a lot more palatable.
Despite the controversy the Jaguares were still the superior side on the field, making the Lions’ decision to rest four Springboks backfire on them as the young side they put out were bullied up front.
Last season’s finalists missed no less than 30 tackles, lost five lineouts and were overshadowed in almost every statistic in the game and were physically overpowered by the Argentinians during the match.
The problems started as early as the fourth minute when Tomas Lezana made a telling break for Joaquin Tuculet to go over in the corner and open the scoring.
Sanchez stretched the lead to 10 points with a penalty. It didn’t take the Lions long to reply though, as a forward surge upfield found captain Warren Whiteley, putting him into space to score the first of his two tries.
Some clever kicking play sent the Jaguares into the Lions’ 22, and recycled ball on the front foot was all that was needed for Sanchez to send Ramiro Moyano over with ease.
The Lions struggled as Andries Ferreira was binned for his second high tackle, and Sanchez added another six points with the boot while he was on the sidelines.
At 21-7 up at the break, Sanchez extended the lead with another three points early in the second half before the Lions used their rolling maul well to send Jacques van Rooyen over the line.
The Jaguares added another try before Robbie Coetzee was also dispatched to the bin for a high tackle. With a man down, Sanchez eventually danced his way around the defence for the fourth try, sealing the victory just before the hour mark.
Tomas Lezana finally became the first Argentinian to visit the bin seven minutes from time, but it was too late for the Lions to try and change the result.
Tries to Malcolm Marx and Whiteley made the scoreline better for Lions fans, but the inconsistency on the night will be remembered more than what was an interesting and enthralling game of rugby.
Jaguares – tries: Joaquin Tuculet, Ramiro Moyano, Jeronimo De la Fuente, Nicolas Sanchez. Conversions: Sanchez (3). Penalties: Sanchez (3).
Emirates Lions – tries: Warren Whiteley (2), Jacques van Rooyen, Malcolm Marx Conversion: Shaun Reynolds, Jaco van der Walt.