Lions give Leinster the blues

Home side show claws in defence as Irish luck runs out

20 April 2024 - 17:35
By Liam Del Carme at Ellis Park
Emmanuel Tshituka break for a try for the the Lions in theur United Rugby Championship match against Leinster at Ellis Park on Saturday.
Image: Lee Warren/Gallo Images Emmanuel Tshituka break for a try for the the Lions in theur United Rugby Championship match against Leinster at Ellis Park on Saturday.

Beguiling attack and belligerent in defence the Lions played themselves back into top eight contention in the United Rugby Championship with a 44-12 win over Leinster at Ellis Park on Saturday.

They stole the march on Leinster early on before keeping the Irish blueboods at arm's length with one of their more defiant displays in defence.

In the corresponding fixture almost to the day last year, the Lions were an enthusiastic bundle of energy for much of the match. Like Labrador pups though, much of it was misspent and they were as dejected as vet-bound Basset hounds at final whistle.

This time, however, they vacated the traps like Greyhounds and though the zing disappeared from their attack over the next half-hour they maintained clear distance to the chasers.

Flank Emmanuel Tshituka was absolutely immense with and without the ball, scrumhalf Morne van den Berg directed operations with impulse and urgency, while props Ruan Dreyer and Morgan Naude helped establish a base from which the Lions would not budge.

The did what they failed to do against Leinster last year. Finishing the job this time was principally achieved through rugged defence, though it is worth noting the much changed visitors were far from the slick operators with the ball one has come to expect.

Lions fans were in nirvana from the outset. The Lions scored a sensational try from kickoff when they regathered the ball thanks to a Leinster error. Van den Berg's skipped pass created space out wide before his wonderfully-timed support run bore fruit as he was the recipient of the inside pass for a stunning score behind the posts.

Their second try perhaps topped the first as they struck from deep with forwards and backs offloading with sheer élan. Again it was an inside pass that delivered the coup de grace with captain Marius Louw rounding off.

Nohamba then pounced on a Leinster error near halfway that allowed fullback Quan Horn to streak clear leaving the sparse but vocal crowd in rapture.

Leinster, of course, were a little off colour, if not pale and it wasn't just due to their changed personnel. They played in all white instead of their more traditional blue and for much of this game they were barely recognisable.

The Lions also had their measure in the scrum but the spoiling hand of visiting lock Jason Jenkins contributed to a frustrating time for the Lions in the line-outs.

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Leinster were uncharacteristically wasteful. On one occasion in the first half a crooked line-out feed five metres from the Lions' try line crushed their first proper incursion into the home side's territory. Two more line-out feeds from the same spot also drew blanks for the visitors.

With half an hour on the clock stout Lions' defence prevented Leinster from opening their account under the crossbar.

More frustration came four minutes from half time when outside centre Liam Turner's stretch for the try line resulted in the ball being lost.

It was a period, however, in which Leinster were laying more claim to the ball and they were starting to gain metres by breaking tackles. Veteran loose head prop Cian Healy was rolling back the years and the nearest Lions' defender, but Leinster's first half was summed up when after sustained attack deep inside the Lions' 22 they spilt the ball forward in the final act of the half.

Four minutes into the second half and the luck of the Irish still did not apply to the visitors. Another 'score' was chalked off, this time as a result of a forward pass.

They eventually got on the scoreboard when Ciaran Frawley rounded in the 54th minute but that's all they got.

Scorers

Lions (22) 44 — Tries: Emmanuel Tshituka (2), Morne van den Berg, Marius Louw, Quan Horn, Francke Horn. Conversions: Sanele Nohamba (2), Jordan Hendrikse (2). Penalties: Nohamba (2).

Leinster (0) 12 — Tries: Ciaran Frawley (2). Conversion: Harry Byrne.