Lions late-show stuns Reds
Stefan Watermeyer (Gallo Images)
Johannesburg - The Lions wiped out a 14 point half-time deficit to beat the Reds 23-20 in their Super Rugby clash at Ellis Park in Johannesburg on Saturday.
Initially, nothing seemed to go right for the Lions on the night as they made a host of handling errors compared to the skilful attacking by the Reds.
Reds flyhalf Quade Cooper was the main instigator for his side as he kept the Lions defence guessing and gave his team a 14-point lead going into the half-time interval.
The unpredictable Cooper scored all of his side's first-half points through two converted tries and two penalty conversions.
The tourists were dominant at the breakdowns and the contact areas in general, which gifted the fleet-footed Cooper with front-foot ball.
Cooper opened the scoring three minutes into the match with penalty conversions before he got over the whitewash two minutes later.
Deon van Rensburg then spilt the ball in the tackle inside his 22 with the Reds kicking the loose ball.
Cooper gathered, scoring and converting his own effort for a handy 10-0 lead after only five minutes of action.
Despite the early disadvantage the Lions remained positive on attack as they took the game to the visiting team.
The Lions suffered an early blow when seasoned campaigner, lock Franco van der Merwe, left the field injured to be replaced by MB Lusaseni.
Lions flyhalf Marnitz Boshoff got his side onto the score-sheet after 14 minutes of play with a penalty conversion before Cooper responded two minutes later with a three-pointer of his own.
Eight minutes before the half-time recess, Cooper struck again as he found easy passage over the line when he stepped to the right and sold a weak dummy for an open tryline.
Cooper converted his own effort which turned out to be his side's last points of the match.
Boshoff responded with a penalty for the hosts before half-time, as the Reds led 20-6 at the interval.
The high altitude seemed to take its toll on the Reds in the second half as they lacked the same intensity as in the first.
The Lions, in contrast, showed greater intent and they appeared to get the rub of the green with some help from referee Stuart Berry.
Boshoff started the fightback with a penalty conversion in the 52nd minute which seemed to supply the spark that was absent in the first half.
In the 65th minute, replacement centre Lionel Mapoe found the breakthrough for the Lions when he received the ball from a lateral running Faf de Klerk to score with a Reds player on his back.
Matters soon went from bad to worse for the visitors in the last 10 minutes of the match, when James Hanson was shown a yellow card in the 70th minute before Jake Schatz joined him in the sin-bin four minutes later.
Three minutes from time Courtnall Skosan dove over the line to put his side a point ahead of the visitors, with Boshoff adding the extra two for the three-point victory.
Tries: Mapoe, Skosan
Cons: Boshoff 2
Pens: Boshoff 3
Tries: Cooper 2
Cons: Cooper 2
Pens: Cooper 2
Yellow cards: Hanson, Schatz
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 (captain), 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
Substitutes: 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
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 (captain), 4. Rob Simmons, 3. Greg Holmes, 2. Saia Fainga’a, 1. James Slipper
Substitutes: 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