Golden Lions of South Africa humiliated Sunwolves of Japan 94-7 Saturday in Johannesburg for a record Super Rugby winning margin this season and the second biggest ever.
The 14-try massacre began in the sixth minute when scrum-half Ross Cronje scored and ended during the first minute of additional time as winger Ruan Combrinck completed a hat-trick.
Lions led 35-0 by half-tome at Ellis Park stadium and increased the tempo during the second half against overwhelmed opponents to average more than a point a minute by the final whistle.
Another South African side hold the record for the widest Super Rugby winning margin with Northern Bulls thrashing Australian visitors Queensland Reds 92-3 in Pretoria during 2007.
But Lions comfortably overtook the biggest previous victory of the 2017 season — an 83-17 triumph for Wellington Hurricanes of New Zealand over Sunwolves in Tokyo last February.
The Johannesburg outfit also equalled the Super Rugby record of Canterbury Crusaders of New Zealand and Central Cheetahs of South Africa for the most tries by one team in a match.
Victory moved Lions within two points of overall standings leaders Crusaders with both teams having one regular season fixture to play.
Crusaders, who have won all 14 matches this season, visit defending champions Hurricanes on July 15 and Lions travel to Coastal Sharks of Durban for a South African derby the same day.
Topping the final table means home advantage in each knockout fixture the teams plays — a huge advantage given the travel distances and time differences between South Africa and Australasia.
Lions ran riot without inspirational skipper and No. 8 Warren Whiteley, who will miss the rest of the competition due to a pelvic injury sustained playing for South Africa this month.
Stand-in captain and fellow loose forward Jaco Kriel lauded his absent back-row partner after the match.
“We truly missed Warren tonight. He is our leader on and off the field. He is the player who inspires us to greater heights.
“This match gave us an opportunity to showcase all that is good about Golden Lions rugby.”
Kriel said he and other Lions who helped the Springboks to a 3-0 Test series whitewash over France during June turned down a chance to rest this weekend.
“I do even know why coach Johan Ackermann asked us,” he joked. “We are so keen to play and compete for the Super Rugby title.”
Sunwolves skipper and former Lions loose forward Willie Britz said woeful tackling — they missed 53 of 108 attempts — contributed heavily to the crushing defeat.
“When you miss your tackles and fail to retain the ball, you are in big trouble, especially against a team as good as the Lions,” he said.
Cronje, Kriel (two), flanker Kwagga Smith (two), fly-half Elton Jantjies, hooker Akker van der Merwe, Combrinck (three), winger Courtnall Skosan, substitute backs Faf de Klerk and Sylvian Mahuza and loose forward Ruan Ackermann were Lions’ try scorers.
Jantjies kicked six conversions, Combrinck five and De Klerk one.
Tonga-born forward Uwe Helu claimed Sunwolves’ try when his team were trailing by 59 points and fly-half Jumpei Ogura converted.
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