A passive defensive display saw the Lions slump to their first-ever defeat to the Rebels in a 37-17 loss in Melbourne on Saturday. DYLAN JACK reports.
The Lions came into the match in Melbourne having won each of their five meetings with the Rebels, but having recently experienced tight games against the Australians, most notably in last year’s meeting when they had to come from 33-5 down to win 36-33 in Johannesburg.
Finding themselves 15-0 down in the first-half, the Lions would have to replicate those efforts and were able to narrow the scores to 15-10 at the break thanks to Jamba Ulengo’s try and Elton Jantjies’ penalty and conversion.
However, the Rebels made the most of their opportunities in the second half to ensure that there would be no repeat of the drama that took place at Ellis Park. After a poor start to 2020, the home side will be feeling far better about their season as they got back-to-back for the first time since 2019 and picked up all five points to boot.
Most troubling for the Lions will be their passive drift defensive system, which had far too many gaps for the Rebels’ back three to run into, especially as the game went on. It is something they will have to focus on this week as they prepare for the Blues in Auckland, who have shown their capabilities on attack against the Stormers and Hurricanes.
Equally, despite seeing their fare share of possession, the Lions looked short of ideas on attack. A high error-rate combined with four lost lineouts and 11 penalties conceded meant that the visitors were never really able to build any momentum and were left to rely on individual linebreaks from deep in their own half.
Other than a brief period towards the end of the first half, the Rebels were left fairly untroubled as they dominated their opponents in the tackle and took advantage of a slow clean-out at the breakdown whenever possible.
Rebels – Tries: Andrew Kellaway (2), Richard Hardwick, Isi Naisarani, Ross Haylett-Petty. Conversions: Matt Toomua (3). Penalty: Toomua
Lions – Tries: Jamba Ulengo Sti Sithole. Conversions: Elton Jantjies (2). Penalty: Jantjies.
Rebels – 15 Dane Haylett-Petty (c), 14 Andrew Kellaway, 13 Tom English, 12 Bill Meakes, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Matt To’omua, 9 Ryan Louwrens, 8 Isi Naisarani, 7 Richard Hardwick, 6 Angus Cottrell, 5 Matt Philip, 4 Gideon Koegelenberg, 3 Jermaine Ainsley, 2 Anaru Rangi, 1 Matt Gibbon.
Subs: 16 Jordan Uelese, 17 Cameron Orr, 18 Cabous Eloff, 19 Ross Haylett-Petty, 20 Rob Leota, 21 Frank Lomani, 22 Michael Wells, 23 Andrew Deegan
Lions – 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Tyrone Green, 13 Wandisile Simelane, 12 Dan Kriel, 11 Jamba Ulengo, 10 Elton Jantjies (c), 9 Andre Warner, 8 Len Massyn, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Marnus Schoeman, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Ruben Schoeman, 3 Carlu Sadie, 2 Pieter Jansen, 1 Dylan Smith.
Subs: 16 Jan-Henning Campher, 17 Sti Sithole, 18 Frans van Wyk, 19 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 20 Hacjivah Dayimani, 21 Morne van den Berg, 22 Shaun Reynolds 23 Courtnall Skosan.
Photo: Daniel Pockett/Getty Images