The Jaguares showed why they are fancied to repeat last year’s performance of reaching the Final.
The South American team, which lost to the 10-time champion Crusaders in the 2019 Grand Finale, embarrassed a naive Lions team 38-8 in the last match of Round One in Buenos Aires on Saturday.
The Jaguares held a slender two-point (10-8) lead at the half-time break, but pulled away with four second-half scores.
The hosts were simply too physical, skilled and determined for the visitors from South Africa.
Unfortunately for the Lions, they made plenty of errors at crucial stages, stopping any momentum they may have built up.
Their tactics were also puzzling, looking like a poorly-coached team.
The Jaguares’ defence was from the top shelve, contributing to the visitors’ struggles. In contrast, the Lions slipped too many tackles in the second half.
And Lions flyhalf Elton Jantjies lacked both the leadership and composure to keep his team in the game. His wayward kicking also did not help.
The Lions set down an early marker by winning a penalty in the first scrum of the match. However, that was as good as it was going to get – as Flyhalf and captain Elton Jantjies hooked the kick past the right hand upright.
Then followed a powerful Lions maul and another penalty to the visitors. However, the Lions again fluffed the opportunity.
It was left to the hosts to break the deadlock – a powerful maul that allowed Domingo Miotti to snipe over from a ruck. The replacement back, Miotti, added the conversion.
The Lions eventually opened their account at the end of the opening quarter – a penalty from smack bang in front by Jantjies.
That was followed by a sublime break-out try – Len Massyn making a long run down the right, before off-loading to Andre Warner for the try. Jantjies again hooked the kick wide, but the Lions had the lead – 8-7.
It also ended the Lions’ scoring for the match.
Just short of the half-hour mark Miotti reclaimed the lead with a penalty, after the rushing Lions defence was caught offside.
Right on the half-time hooter, the Lions won a midfield penalty, about 45 metres out. They set up a line-out deep inside the Jaguares 22. However, the hosts stole the line-out and the Jaguares took a 10-8 lead into the break.
The Jaguares opened the second-half scoring, Matias Moroni taking a well-timed pass from Miotti for their second try – that all while they were a man down, Marcos Kremer sin-binned for a dangerous shoulder charge off the ball. Miotti added the conversion to give his team some breathing space – 17-8.
Moroni then exposed the Lions’ flaky defence to score his second with just on 20 minutes remaining. Miotti’s conversion made it 24-8.
Javier Ortega Desio rubbed salt into the festering Lions wounds with a try in the 70th minute. Miotti made it 31-8.
That was followed by a mauling try from veteran replacement Agustin Creevy. Miotti made it a 30-point lead and the final score (38-8) with his conversion.
Man of the match: The hard-working forwards Marnus Schoeman and Ruben Schoeman were good value for the visitors. Tomas Cubelli’s experience, both as scrumhalf and captain, made him a valuable asset to the home side. Our award goes to Domingo Miotti, who came of the bench inside the first 10 minutes and dictated terms from the flyhalf position – at times slicing the Lions’ defensive lines open.
For the Jaguares:
Tries: Miotti, Moroni 2, Desio, Creevy
Cons: Miotti 5
For the Lions:
Yellow card: Marcos Kremer (Jaguares, 46 – foul play, no-arms charge off the ball)
15 Santiago Carreras, 14 Bautista Delguy, 13 Matias Moroni, 12 Juan
Cruz Mallia, 11 Emiliano Boffelli, 10 Joaquin Diaz Bonilla, 9 Tomas
Cubelli (captain), 8 Tomas Lezana, 7 Marcos Kremer, 6 Francisco
Gorrissen, 5 Lucas Paulos, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Santiago Medrano, 2 Julian
Montoya, 1 Mayco Vivas.
Replacements: 16 Agustin Creevy, 17 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 18 Joel Sclavi, 19 Javier Ortega Desio, 20 Rodrigo Bruni, 21 Felipe Ezcurra, 22 Domingo Miotti, 23 Matias Orlando.
Lions: 15 Tiaan Swanepoel, 14 Tyrone
Green, 13 Duncan Matthews, 12 Dan Kriel, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton
Jantjies (captain), 9 Andre Warner, 8 Len Massyn, 7 Vincent Tshituka, 6
Marnus Schoeman, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Ruben Schoeman, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2
Pieter Jansen, 1 Dylan Smith.
Replacements: 16 Jan-Henning Campher, 17 Sti Sithole, 18 Carlu Sadie, 19 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 20 Ruan Vermaak, 21 Hacjivah Dayimani, 22 Morné van der Berg, 23 Manuel Rass.
Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Pablo Deluca (Argentina), Martin Cordoba (Argentina)
TMO: Santiago Borsani (Argentina)