Stormers' captain Siya Kolisi broke through for a try

Johannesburg (AFP) - A couple of debatable decisions went against runaway Super Rugby leaders the Canterbury Crusaders in Cape Town Saturday as they drew 19-19 with the Western Stormers after a thriller.

Skipper and All Blacks lock Sam Whitelock shook his head to indicate unhappiness with a last-minute penalty awarded against the New Zealanders at a vibrant Newlands stadium.

Stormers substitute fly-half Jean-Luc du Plessis slotted the kick to salvage a draw, although some of his South African team-mates believed they should have kicked for touch and sought a match-winning try.

Crusaders thought they had scored a fourth try with five minutes left of the round 14 match when winger Sevu Reece scored off his kick-and-chase.

But the South African television match official said there was “compelling evidence” that substitute back Braydon Ennor had made a forward pass to Reece and the score was disallowed.

Replays of the incident suggested otherwise with Ennor seemingly passing the ball backwards out of his hands.

SuperSport TV analysts and former Springboks Robbie Kempson and Gcobani Bobo said a try should have been awarded, which would have given the visitors an eight-point advantage.

Rival skippers Siya Kolisi and Whitelock did not discuss the incident, preferring to dwell on one of the liveliest Super Rugby matches this season.

“The Crusaders brought out of the best in us and the crowd support was awesome,” said Springboks captain and flanker Kolisi.

Whitelock also hailed the 30,000-plus crowd: “It was a great atmosphere to play in. Now we head home to face the Blues next weekend.”

The draw pulled the Crusaders 17 points clear of the second-place Northern Bulls in the combined standings while the Stormers remained 12th.

Flanker Matt Todd, full-back David Havili and Ennor scored a try each and fly-half Richie Mo’unga kicked two conversions for the trophy-holders, who led 12-10 at half-time.

Kolisi scored the lone Stormers try, fly-half Josh Stander kicked a conversion and two penalties and Du Plessis two penalties.

- Hung in the balance -

In Johannesburg, the Golden Lions beat the Otago Highlanders 38-29 in a scrappy 10-try match that hung in the balance until the 79th minute.

The South Africans clinched victory thanks to a late try from winger Courtnall Skosan and rose three places to sixth while the New Zealanders dropped one place to eighth.

Despite the try fest and the closeness of the score, the match never caught fire with too many handling errors.

Lions' Aphiwe Dyantyi is tackled by Highlanders' Ash Dixon

The lukewarm post-match reaction of Lions hooker Malcolm Marx confirmed that there was little to celebrate.

“This match was decided in the final five minutes. Highlanders pushed us all the way,” said the Springbok.

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

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

Although substitute back Dan Hollinshead fluffed both conversions, the Highlanders led 22-21 with 20 minutes remaining.

Jantjies kicked the only penalty of the match to regain the lead for the hosts and 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 all five 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.