Lions edge Reds at the death

23 Mar 2014
Lions edge Reds at the death

The Lions claimed yet another heavyweight Super Rugby scalp on Saturday with a 23-20 win over the Reds at Ellis Park in Johannesburg.

Reds fly-half Quade Cooper scored two converted tries, while he also added two penalties to put the Reds ahead 20-6 at the half-time break.

But a thrilling comeback saw the Lions snatch the win in the dying minutes against a Reds side that had been reduced to 13 men.

With the win the Lions moved up to fourth place in the tournament standings.

Johan Ackermann's men kept the visitors scoreless in the second half and enjoyed a two man advantage during the most crucial part of the contest.

In the first real game changer, replacement hooker James Hanson was sin-binned for repeated ruck infringements with 10 minutes left in the match. Moments later he was joined on the sideline by Jake Shatz - leaving the Reds with only six forwards to complete the match.

The Lions would subsequently set up camp in Reds territory, but even with the numerical advantage, struggled to cross the line, however eventually the decisive try was scored by winger Courtnall Skosan.

Prior to Skosan's match-winner the Lions tried their best to overpower the six-man Reds scrum, but failed to capitalise on the advantage.

The first points the Lions scored just so happened to be from a scrum penalty - Marnitz Boshoff continuing the rich vein of form he is enjoying with the boot.

Earlier, Cooper had put his side in front with a three-pointer. He also scored a brilliant try when Lions centre Deon van Rensburg was trapped in possession, only to watch Cooper kick the ball through and snatch it from the unsuspecting hands of JW Jonker to dive over for the five- pointer.

The Lions looked bewildered and lost even more structure when their only international player - Franco van der Merwe - to injury in the opening exchanges.

Thanks to a far superior kicking game that was spearheaded by Cooper and Will Genia, the first stanza was an all Reds affair.

They countered the all-out attacking mindset of the Lions with great tactical play and retained possession well.

Cooper settled for the three points from the subsequent penalty and would later score his second try as the Lions defence out wide remained suspect.

At the break Cooper had 20 points to his name while the Lions had to settle for two Boshoff penalties.

The role of De Klerk became all the more important as the match continued and the young scrum-half's first real line-break in the second half appeared to lift spirits in what looked like a downtrodden team.

Equally MB Lusaseni will look back on the match as one that should see him receive some reward for his work in Van der Merwe's absence. He carried well and his cleaning was equally impressive.