The Reds outmuscled the more fancied Lions to set up an unlikely 27-22 win over the log-leaders in Brisbane on Saturday. JON CARDINELLI reports.
The result brings an end to the Lions’ winning streak in Australia. Few would have bet on the Reds halting the Lions’ run Down Under. Few would have predicted a resounding performance by the Reds against one of the form packs of the tournament.
The Lions came into this clash on the back of a record 29-0 win over the Waratahs in Sydney. After 10 rounds, Swys de Bruin’s side boasted the best set-piece stats and more tries than any other team in the competition.
By contrast, the Reds went into this game ranked last in the tournament for points and tries. Few people if any would have put money on the Reds putting four tries past the Lions.
In the end, however, Brad Thorn’s charges ran out convincing winners.
The Reds attacked the Lions at their strongest point: the set piece. The hosts dominated the scrums, and managed to force a few turnovers at the lineouts. As a result, the visitors were not allowed to build momentum – especially in the first half – and key men like Elton Jantjies were often caught on the back foot.
The Reds got off the line quickly to compound the pressure. They forced the Lions to make mistakes and lose the ball in contact. They also succeeded in exploiting the weaknesses in the Lions’ back three with a series of well-placed kicks.
The Reds scored all four of their tries in the first half. They went to half-time with a commanding 24-0 lead.
The Reds were on top during the early stages of the second stanza. They opted for a scrum deep in Lions territory after winning a penalty. That decision served to show the confidence of the side as well as their grip on the game.
Filipo Daugunu kicked a penalty in the 48th minute to stretch the lead to 27 points. That score took the game away from the Lions.
The visitors went down fighting, though. The Lions lineout was sharper in the second half, and it was from this set piece that they mauled to score two tries late in the contest.
The latter score threatened to deny the Reds a bonus point for scoring three more tries than the opposition. From there, the Lions continued to apply the pressure and crossed the line twice in the dying moments to claim a losing bonus point.
The Lions will need to address their problems at the set pieces and on defence ahead of the coming clash against the Hurricanes. The Wellington-based side has a fine attacking record and also boasts one of the best set pieces in the tournament.
Reds – Tries: JP Smith, Caleb Timu, Brandon Paenga-Amosa, George Smith. Conversions: Filipo Daugunu (2). Penalty: Daugunu.
Lions – Tries: Malcolm Marx (2), Marnus Schoeman (2). Conversion: Elton Jantjies.
Reds – 15 Aidan Toua, 14 Filipo Daugunu, 13 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 12 Samu Kerevi (c), 11 Jordan Petaia, 10 Hamish Stewart, 9 Ben Lucas, 8 Caleb Timu, 7 George Smith, 6 Angus Scott-Young, 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Izack Rodda, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 1 Jean-Pierre Smith.
Subs: 16 Alex Mafi, 17 Harry Hoopert, 18 Ruan Smith, 19 Harry Hockings, 20 Adam Korczyk, 21 Moses Sorovi, 22 Duncan Paia’aua , 23 Izaia Perese.
Lions –15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Harold Vorster, 12 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 11 Madosh Tambwe, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Dillon Smit, 8 Hacjivah Dayimani, 7 Franco Mostert (c), 6 Kwagga Smith, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Jacques van Rooyen.
Subs: 16 Robbie Coetzee, 17 Dylan Smith, 18 Johannes Jonker, 19 Lourens Erasmus, 20 Cyle Brink, 21 Marnus Schoeman, 22 Nic Groom, 23 Ashlon Davids.
Photo: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images