Elton Jantjies scored an 83rd-minute try for the Lions to secure a 24-15 bonus-point win over the Force in Perth on Saturday. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
The Lions have an eighth win of the season and started their tour to Australia on a winning note, but it’s been some time since their attack looked so rudderless, particularly during a dour second half.
The visitors led by five points at half-time after scoring two tries in the opening stanza, and yet it was the Force who looked the better of the two teams after the interval.
However, all season the Lions have found a way to win, and they did so once again in Perth, with their dominant scrum ultimately paving the way for an important win over a gutsy Force team.
The Lions dominated possession in the opening exchanges, and finally wore down the defence of the Force, with Lionel Mapoe running on to a lovely pop pass from Jantjies to score next to the posts in the seventh minute.
What has been key to the Lions’ success in recent times has been their ability to compete ferociously at the breakdown, and they once again displayed plenty of intent at the contact points, with Malcolm Marx particularly featuring prominently.
However, the Lions’ over-eagerness at the breakdown also led to a couple of penalties, which were duly slotted by Force scrumhalf Ian Prior, to cut the deficit to a solitary point after half an hour of play.
The Lions were enjoying the better of the exchanges at the set pieces, though, and were finally rewarded for their overall ascendancy when some lovely handling set up an important try for Courtnall Skosan five minutes before half-time.
As it was, the Force missed as many as 19 tackles in the opening stanza, but would have been quite happy to only trail by five points at the break, as Prior slotted a third penalty with one of the final plays of the half.
At the interval, the Lions would have spoken of the need to improve their accuracy and decision-making in the second half, but their attack continued to lack its characteristic rhythm and spark in the face of some abrasive Force defence.
That impotence on attack was reflected in a forgettable third quarter where Prior and Elton Jantjies only managed to trade a penalty each.
It was a nervy final 15 minutes for the Lions as Prior slotted his fifth penalty in the 66th minute, but from a dominant scrum, Jantjies darted over to seal the result and an invaluable bonus point.
Force – Penalties: Ian Prior (5).
Lions – Tries: Lionel Mapoe, Courtnall Skosan, Elton Jantjies. Conversions: Elton Jantjies (3). Penalty: Jantjies.
Force – 15 Marcel Brache, 14 James Verity-Amm, 13 Curtis Rona, 12 Bill Meakes, 11 Alex Newsome, 10 Luke Burton, 9 Ian Prior, 8 Isi Naisarani, 7 Matt Hodgson (c), 6 Brynard Stander, 5 Ross Haylett-Petty, 4 Lewis Carmichael, 3 Tetera Faulkner, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Pek Cowan.
Subs: 16 Heath Tessmann, 17 Ben Daley, 18 Shambeckler Vui, 19 Onehunga Havilli, 20 Richard Hardwick, 21 Mitch Short, 22 Jono Lance, 23 Peter Grant.
Lions – 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Sylvian Mahuza, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley (c), 7 Ruan Ackermann, 6 Kwagga Smith, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Jacques van Rooyen.
Subs: 16 Robbie Coetzee, 17 Corne Fourie, 18 Johannes Jonker, 19 Lourens Erasmus, 20 Cyle Brink, 21 Dillon Smit, 22 Jacques Nel, 23 Anthony Volmink.
Photo: David Woodley/Getty Images