Planet Rugby

Lions edge Reds at the death

22nd March 2014 17:01

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Stefan Watermeyer of Lions is tackled by Mike Harris of Reds

Strong runner: Stefan Watermeyer

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.

While Hanson's card was warranted even though the Reds were deep inside Lions territory, the yellow Shatz saw will be debate for some time as the big number eight appeared to have competed fairly at the tackle area.

The Lions would subsequently set up camp in Reds territory, but even with the numerical advantage, struggled to cross the line.

Eventually the decisive try was scored by winger Courtnall Skosan, but even on that occasion referee Stuart Berry's law interpretation will be up for debate.

The line-out throw that preceded the try could just as well have been passed to scrum-half Faf de Klerk and despite appeals by Reds captain James Horwill to have it reviewed, Berry stuck with his interpretation.

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.

That facet of play turned what could have been a far more entertaining contest into a stop-start affair, with the visitors on the receiving end of Berry's wrath.

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.

In another questionable call, replacement Dom Shipperley thought he was in for his team's second try, but Berry called play back for an earlier knock-on.

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.

The scorers:

For Lions:
Tries: Mapoe, Skosan
Cons: Boshoff 2
Pens: Boshoff 3

For Reds:
Tries: Cooper 2
Cons: Cooper 2
Pens: Cooper 2
Yellow cards: Hanson, Schatz

Lions: 15 Coenie van Wyk, 14 JW Jonker, 13 Deon van Rensburg, 12 Stefan Watermeyer, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Marnitz Boshoff, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley (c), 7 Willie Britz, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Franco Mostert, 3 Julian Redelinghuys, 2 Willie Wepener, 1 Schalk van der Merwe.
Replacements: 16 Mark Pretorius, 17 Corne Fourie, 18 Ruan Dreyer, 19 MB Lusaseni, 20 Stephan de Wit, 21 Ross Cronjé, 22 Lionel Mapoe, 23 Ruan Combrinck

Reds: 15 Aidan Toua, 14 Rod Davies, 13 Ben Tapuai, 12 Mike Harris, 11 Lachie Turner, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Eddie Quirk, 5 James Horwill (c), 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 Saia Fainga'a, 1 James Slipper
Replacements: 16 James Hanson, 17 Albert Anae, 18 Jono Owen, 19 Ed O'Donoghue, 20 Beau Robinson, 21 Nick Frisby, 22 Anthony Fainga'a/Ben Lucas 23 Dom Shipperley

Venue: Ellis Park, Johannesburg
Referee: Stuart Berry (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Marius van der Westhuizen, Francois de Bruin (both SA)

By Michael Mentz

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