Lions edge Reds in error-strewn match in the wet
The Lions restored some pride when they won an error strewn Super Rugby match 27-20 against the Reds here on Saturday.
The Lions led 17-13 at the break.
Having gone down badly to the Jaguares a week ago, this was the ideal opportunity for the Lions to atone for that defeat. The Reds have not finished higher than 13th on the Super Rugby points table since 2014 and following their defeat to the Brumbies last week, the start of this campaign delivered no portents of a significant change in fortune.
This was a scrappy and disjointed affair in which the Reds’ ability to soak up Lions pressure was going to determine their level of competitiveness. They were more than competitive.
As you’d expect there was precious little continuity in conditions so wet it would have had Noah dashing off to the nearest Timber City.
Commendably both teams attempted to play with enterprise but the soggy conditions conspired against those who dared to dream.
The Lions in particular, were left frustrated, if not exasperated by their inability to apply the finishing touches. Imprecision when they were engaged in frenzied attack cost the hosts and all too often the ball would spill in contact with the tryline merely metres away.
On a dull day that only attracted around 4,000 spectators there was very little to shout about. There were a few exceptions, however.
The marvelously intuitive Tyrone Green typically pinballed in the heavy traffic and his never say die spirit kept the Lions nudging forward. Locks Marvin Orie and Ruben Schoeman were valuable sources of possession at the lineout while, Marnus Schoeman was a bundle of energy throughout.
With Orie and Schoeman commanding the air, the Lions’ rolling maul, for long a potent weapon in their armoury, was deployed with mixed success in the first half.
Of course the conditions demanded it but the home side eschewed several kickable opportunities at goal. They weren’t always clinical when they crabbed forward though, and there were occasions when opportunity slipped from their grasp.
While their lineout provided an attacking platform, the Lions were less assertive in the scrums. The sight of them being scrummed off the ball from an attacking set piece five meters out would have made for disturbing viewing in the coaches’ box in the 33rd minute.
Reds tighthead prop Taniela Tupou was binned in the 40th minute after repeated infringements by the tourists. Just after the break his replacement Josh Nasser was also shown yellow but somehow the Reds maintained the upper hand in that set piece.
New Lions recruit Jannie du Plessis had a torrid time and he was substituted in the 47th minute.
The scrum was the only area in which the Reds gained traction but it helped keep them in the game. Their stout defence served a similar purpose and there would have been groans of disbelief when the visitors regained the lead through a Tate McDermott try with 17 minutes to go.
That converted score handed the visitors a 20-17 lead but the Lions grew increasingly restive.
They laid siege to the Reds tryline but were repelled time and time again. They kept plugging away however and finally Courtnall Skosan slipped past his marker to score a try that handed the hosts the lead with 12 minutes to go.
LIONS (17) 27
Tries: Tyrone Green (2), Marnus Schoeman, Courtnall Skosan. Conversions: Elton Jantjies (2). Penalty: Jantjies.
REDS (13) 20
Tries: Jock Campbell, Tate McDermott. Conversions: Bryce Hegarty (2). Penalties: Hegarty (2).