Lionel Mapoe’s hat-trick of tries helped the Lions cap their most successful Super rugby season with a 60-25 eight-try mauling of the Cheetahs on Saturday.
Mapoe scored twice in the first half to give the Lions a healthy lead after a competitive start to the game, and then grabbed a third as the hosts ran riot in the second period.
The result gave the promoted Lions a team record seventh win of the season, and their highest winning total.
Meanwhile, the Cheetahs were consigned to last place in the South African conference. A playoffs team last year, the Cheetahs were unchanged after beating the conference-winning Sharks last weekend, but finished an otherwise forgettable campaign with three yellow cards in the match.
The first of them was delivered by referee Marius van der Westhuizen as early as the 23rd minute when Phillip van der Walt collapsed a maul in the lead-up to Mapoe’s first try.
The loose forward’s absence cost the Cheetahs twice in two minutes as scrumhalf Ross Cronje found space around the fringe of a ruck to score, and then Mapoe rounded off a frenzied counterattack by dotting down.
The Lions went into halftime 27-13 up, but without flyhalf Elton Jantjies after he was shown a yellow card moments before the break, which helped the Cheetahs back into the game as Cornall Hendricks’ solo try put them within touching distance once more.
However, once Jantjies returned, the Lions ran away with the game.
Robbie Coetzee scored off the back of a rolling maul just seconds after Cheetahs prop Coenie Oosthuizen was sin-binned for repeated infringements in the scrum, and then the visitors also lost Johan Goosen to a professional foul in the lead-up to a Warren Whiteley try.
Fullback Andries Coetzee’s intercept try gave the Lions a 48-20 lead and, after Hendricks grabbed a second with a kick and chase, Mapoe completed his hat trick with seven minutes remaining to round off a memorable evening that put the Lions 12th in the final standings. Defeat left the Cheetahs winless on the road for the season.
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