Lions claw Dragons but keep paws grounded

Despite red card to Ruben Schoeman they get job done

03 December 2023 - 11:39
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Try time for Quan Horn of the Lions in their United Rugby Championship match against the Dragons at Ellis Park.
Try time for Quan Horn of the Lions in their United Rugby Championship match against the Dragons at Ellis Park.
Image: Gordon Arons (Gallo Images)

The Lions on Saturday reflected on a 49-24 victory in the United Rugby Championship (URC) over the Dragons they believe had more to do with guts than head.

They ran in six tries against the hapless Dragons despite losing lock Ruben Schoeman to a red card in the 27th minute.

They scored some scintillating tries but there were times the home side looked frayed.

By the time Schoeman was banished the Lions had nudged ahead and a try two minutes later by fullback Quan Horn served to underline their desire to dig deep. They didn't look back as the Dragons failed to live up to the speed and intensity of the hosts in the thin highveld air.

“It was a character win but rugby-wise there is a lot of space to grow,” head coach Ivan van Rooyen candidly admitted.

The Lions made a sloppy start as they failed to take full control of the ball. Despite racking up 49 points the Lions were not at their best.

“It wasn't good enough,” captain Marius Louw said. “Our breakdown wasn't good enough. There were good tries. We were brave but we made too many errors and our execution wasn't good enough.”

Louw, however, noted a lift in energy after the red card, while scrumhalf Morne van der Berg witnessed his team playing with sharper focus and greater cohesion as they rid themselves of the poor ball retention that dogged them in the opening quarter.

Playing with 14 players for a sustained period is not new to the Lions, Louw reminded.

“We often train with seven forwards against eight,” impressive prop and crowd favourite Asenathi Ntlabakanye pointed out.

The Dragons, though, are a poor side. They are perhaps deservedly at the bottom of the points table after seven rounds. They are at their most dangerous from broken play but they lack substance where it matters.

The Lions were still capable of keeping them well beyond an arm's length despite the Welsh side's numerical disadvantage.

The Lions, though, are far from mesmerised by their points tally.

“We are under no illusions there are going to be teams that will come here and will take advantage if we concede a red card, make mistakes and don't execute. They will place us under greater pressure and will score more tries.

“Obviously we are happy to have won with 14 men,” said Louw.

The win moved the Lions to ninth on the overall points table and second in the South African Shield behind the Bulls.


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