Late Skosan try seals scrappy win for Lions

Johannesburg (AFP) –


Golden Lions defeated Otago Highlanders 38-29 in Johannesburg Saturday in a scrappy 10-try Super Rugby match that hung in the balance until one minute from time.

The South Africans clinched a round 14 win over the New Zealanders thanks to a 79th-minute try from winger Courtnall Skosan and rose three places to sixth in the combined standings.

Highlanders dropped one place to eighth after surrendering a four-match unbeaten run at the start of a tour that also includes a match against the Western Stormers in Cape Town.

A powerful break by fellow winger Aphiwe Dyantyi set up Skosan to score and give the Lions, beaten finalists in the last three editions, a third victory in four outings.

Despite the try fest and the closeness of the score, it was a match that never caught fire on a warm afternoon as there were too many handling and other errors by both teams.

The lukewarm post-match reaction of Lions hooker Malcolm Marx -- deputising as skipper for injured No. 8 Warren Whiteley -- confirmed that there was little to celebrate.

"After a lot of endeavour from both teams, the match was decided in the final five minutes. Highlanders pushed us all the way," said the Springbok.

- Lead changed three times -

"Some of my lineout throws were wayward and I must take those errors on the chin, study the video of the match and improve."

The lead changed three times in a four-try first half that ended with the Lions leading 14-12 because Elton Jantjies slotted both conversions while rival fly-half Josh Ioane missed one.

Loose forward Kwagga Smith scored his second try to stretch the lead to nine points before the Dunedin outfit hit back with winger Jordan Hyland and full-back Matt Faddes scoring.

Although substitute back Dan Hollinshead failed to convert either try, the Highlanders led 22-21 with a quarter of the match remaining.

Jantjies kicked the only penalty of the match to regain the lead for the hosts. Tries by substitute Shaun Reynolds and Ioane meant only two points separated the sides on 75 minutes.

Highlanders had chances to snatch victory before Dyantyi showed the form that made him a Springbok regular last season and Skosan applied the finishing touch.

Smith (two), full-back Andries Coetzee, Reynolds and Skosan scored tries for the Lions and Jantjies converted them all and kicked a penalty.

Winger Sio Tomkinson, lock Tom Franklin, Hyland, Faddes and Ioane were Highlanders' try scorers and Ioane and Hollinshead kicked one conversion each.