The Lions ended their Australasian tour on a high with a thrilling 18-17 win over the Reds in Brisbane on Friday, writes BRENTON CHELIN.
The result sees the Lions returning home with three wins from four tour matches, their best ever return. It was another victory built on the back of a solid set piece and relentless commitment on defence.
For the Reds, it was their fifth defeat in six starts, and coach Richard Graham's position is bound to come under more scrutiny despite a second-half fightback.
After a humiliating shut-out against the Brumbies in their last match, the Reds weren't much better against the Lions, even after the return of Quade Cooper and a number of key backs.
Cooper gave the Reds an early lead with a penalty, but the Lions hit back with a try through centre Harold Vorster. Vorster showed great hands in the buildup to get Sampie Mastriet across the advantage line, and was on hand to finish things off in the corner.
The Lions' dominance at the scrum had not been fully rewarded by referee Glen Jackson, but a penalty from Jantjies after the hooter was enough to extend their lead to 8-3 at the break.
A try from Warwick Tecklenburg extended the Lions' lead further in the 50th minute before a moment of controversy brought the Reds back into the match.
Ruan Combrinck received a yellow card for a cynical infringement with the Reds on attack, and from the resulting penalty, the Reds, with a changed front row, dominated the Lions at the scrum, prompting Jackson to award the Reds a penalty try. It seemed a hasty decision given all that had transpired previously.
Buoyed by that try, the Reds went in search of another. The Lions, playing in their seventh successive match, and fourth of a tough tour, began to show signs of fatigue.
Cooper was finding holes in the Lions defence and it was his break that resulted in a try for Samu Kerevi. His conversion handed the Reds a slim 17-15 lead with 12 minutes remaining.
But the Lions showed great resolve to move back into Reds territory to win a penalty, which Jantjies duly converted to hand them the lead, before defending heroically for the final eight minutes to make off with another deserved victory.
Reds – Tries: Penalty try, Samu Kerevi. Conversions: Quade Cooper (2). Penalty: Cooper.
Lions – Tries: Harold Vorster, Warwick Tecklenburg. Conversion: Elton Jantjies. Penalties: Jantjies (2).
Reds – 15 Lachie Turner, 14 Chris Kuridrani, 13 Samu Kerevi, 12 Anthiny Fainga'a, 11 James O'Connor, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Curtis Browning, 6 Adam Thompson, 5 Dave McDuling, 4 James Horwill, 3 Sam Talakai, 2 James Hanson, 1 James Slipper (c).
Subs: 16 Saia Fainga'a, 17 Ben Daley, 18 Greg Holmes, 19 Marco Kotze, 20 Michael Gunn, 21 Nick Frisby, 22 Ben Tapuai, 23 Chris Feauai-Sautia.
Lions – 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Sampie Mastriet, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronjé, 8 Warren Whiteley (c), 7 Warwick Tecklenburg, 6 Derick Minnie, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Robert Kruger, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Robbie Coetzee, 1 Schalk van der Merwe.
Subs: 16 Armand van der Merwe, 17 Jacques van Rooyen, 18 Julian Redelinghuys, 19 Martin Muller, 20 Jaco Kriel, 21 Faf de Klerk, 22 Marnitz Boshoff, 23 Howard Mnisi.
Photo: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images