Planet Rugby

Lions defy critics again

03rd March 2007 12:20

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quade cooper

Try time! Quade Cooper goes over the whitewash for the Reds

The Lions edged out another overseas opponent away from home, downing the Reds 26-20 in Brisbane on Saturday.

Andre Pretorius turned in a magnificent second half performance, sparking the Lions attack to earn the underrated side yet another victory which sees them ascend to second on the log.

The Reds signalled their intent early on, throwing everything they had at the Lions, with a youthful midfield combination of 18-year-old Quade Cooper and Berrick Barnes displaying vigour and incision.

Earl Rose, whose kicking was precise all match, opened the score, however, landing a long-range penalty, which he would follow up minutes later.

Reds kicking ace Clinton Schifcofske returned Rose's penalty, and then the Reds' new-found attacking instinct went to work.

Horwill and Chapman were fantastic in the air and the rest of the forwards like Croft and Roe were hardworking, and the Reds dominated the first half.

Eventually the Lions were being asked to make too many tackles and Cooper and then fellow teenager, replacement scrum-half Will Genia, both slipped some tackles to dot down tries, which Schifcofske converted.

But crucially the Lions, displaying a maturity not often seen in touring South African teams - perhaps this weekend sees the end of this pattern - managed to garner points evry time they were able to venture into the Reds half.

They were looking full of running themselves but final passes and half-chances were not being taken.

What the Lions did so well is they absorbed all the early pressure from the Reds, yet stayed in touch with four Earl Rose penalties, trailing 17-12 at the break.

And then Andre Pretorius entered the arena.

The Reds continued where they left off upon the return but the Lions were picking themselves up, and the Reds would never have another scoring opportunity, despite some mystifyingly bad handling from Wylie Human and Earl Rose.

Pretorius dominated the game with his boot, keeping the Lions in the right half, buit, instead of waiting for penalties, the Lions demonstrated a pace on attack that would have future opponents getting quite nervous.

Pretorius put through a grubber into the in-goal area which Jaque Fourie deftly touched down for the first goal.

Schifcofske, however, later re-took the lead for his side with the Reds' final points of the game - a penalty that saw the score at 20-19 to the Reds entering the final ten minutes.

But one always got the impression that the Lions had the Reds' number, and this was confirmed when Pretorius gave a skillful inside pass to Jannie Boshoff on a fiery backline move, which eventually saw Heinke van der Merwe power close to the line.

The Lions had the penalty advantage, but the ball was flicked out to Pretorius who switched inside to skipper Ernst Joubert who charged over from ten metres, carrying a couple of Reds defenders with him.

Rose added the points, the Lions held on, and, once again, the Lions have proved that you disregard them at your peril.

They were full of imagination, and, whilst the execution was not always there, this only points to the onimous sign that they are still finding their full stride.

The Reds, it must be remembered, are a fairly youthful side, especially tonight's line-up, but they do need to find a way of consistently finding space on attack. As other Australian teams, there appears to be a stolidness on offense.

They find themselves bottom of the log, whilst the Lions climb to second, and will face the leaders, the Blues, next week in Auckland.

Man of the Match: Ernst Joubert and Cobus Grobelaar were once again supremos in the loose, surely they will have to be considered ahead of some bigger names come the World Cup, but our Man of the Match is Andre Pretorius, who displayed a near flawless fly-half performance, adding some defensive venom to his repertoire.

The scorers:

For the Reds:

Tries: Cooper, Genia

Cons: Schifcofske 2

Pen: Schifcofske 2

For the Lions:

Tries: Fourie, Joubert

Con: Rose 2

Pens: Rose 4

Teams:

Reds: 15 Clinton Schifcofske, 14 Henari Veratau. 13 Ben Tune, 12 Berrick Barnes, 11 Brando Va'alu, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Nic Berry, 8 John Roe (c), 7 David Croft, 6 Mitch Chapman, 5 James Horwill, 4 Ed O'Donoghue, 3 Rodney Blake, 2 Sean Hardman, 1 Ben Coutts

Replacements: 16 Ole Avei, 17 Herman Hunt, 18 Cam Treloar, 19 Tom McVerry, 20 Will Genia, 21 Charlie Fetoai, 22 Andrew Walker

Lions: 15 Earl Rose, 14 Wylie Human, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Doppies la Grange, 11 Jaco Pretorius, 10 Jaco van Schalkwyk, 9 Ricky Januarie, 8 Jacques Cronjé, 7 Ernst Joubert (c), 6 Cobus Grobbelaar, 5 Cobus Grobler, 4 Anton van Zyl, 3 Bertus Smit, 2 Willie Wepener, 1 Heinke van der Merwe.

Replacements: 16 Ethienne Reynecke, 17 Brian Mujati, 18 Franco van der Merwe, 19 Willem Alberts, 20 Jano Vermaak, 21 Andre Pretorius, 22 Jannie Boshoff

Referee: Kelvin Deaker (New Zealand)

Touch judges: TBC (New Zealand), Brett Bowden (Australia)

Television match official: George Ayoub (Australia)

Assessor: Dennis Immelman (South Africa), Andrew Cole (Australia)

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