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Lions booted out by 14 men

MATCH REPORT: The Lions were booted out of the Challenge Cup by Benetton with 14 players as they were beaten 27-17 in Treviso on Saturday evening.

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It was a disappointing performance by the men from Johannesburg, as they were one more on the field for most of the second half, but failed to capitalise on this.

The first ten minutes was very even stevens as first the Lions and then Benetton managed to score early tries. After ten minutes the score was stuck at 10-10 after Lions captain Jaco Visagie and Benetton prop Thomas Gallo managed to cross the line.

Lions flyhalf Jordan Hendrikse had the opportunity to take the Lions into the lead, but the goal at penalty went astray.

South African Rhyno Smith, in the flashy pink of Benetton, managed a brilliant drop to take his side into the lead by 10-7.

The Lions countered with a wonderful move, but then lost the ball in contact.

After half an hour of play, the home-side was on the attack and setting up camp in the Lions’ 22.

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They threatened the Lions’ try-line and it ended in a try by their strong wing Onisi Ratave in the corner for Benetton’s second try.

Trailing by 7-17, the Lions had a lot of work to do, knowing that Benetton flyhalf Jacob Umaga also do not miss any kicks at goal.

Hendrikse helped the Lions to claw their way back with a successful penalty kick two minutes before half-time.

The teams went into half time with the home-side leading 17-10.

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A red card to Benetton hooker Giacomo Nicotera in the 43rd minute changed the trajectory of the game, gifting the Lions a numerical advantage from the 43rd minute of the game. Sadly an advantage they never used.

Two minutes later Hendrikse danced his way across the whitewash. His conversion equaled the score at 17-17.

A decision by Umaga to go for the corner instead of the posts resulted in Benetton scoring their third try.

The successful conversion again took the home-side into the lead by 24-17.

After an hour of play, Benetton had the chance to stretch their lead once more with a goal kick at the poles, sent straight through by Tomas Albornoz, Umaga having been replaced.

At this stage it didn’t look like the Lions had any special plans to bag this vital knock-out game and seemed to just be going through the motions.

Then another very dangerous high tackle followed on a Lions player as Erich Cronje went down like a bag of stones having been hit very high above the shoulder by Malakai Fekitoa.

With one red card already against them, this action was very ill-disciplined and it turned out to be a yellow with just more than 10 minutes left on the clock.

A crucial time for the Lions to get ahead playing against 13 players.

With five minutes left on the clock, the body language of the visitors were telling – as if there was no urgency – even though they had two more players on the field.

With tree minutes to go, Benetton controlled the ball to run out the clock, managing to hold onto possession.

They maintained their 10-point lead, closing out the game knowing they were into the quarterfinals.

Scorers:

For Benetton:
Tries: Gallo, Ratave, Bernasconi
Cons: Umaga 3
Pen: Albornoz
DG: Smith

For Lions:
Tries: Visagie, Hendrikse
Cons: Hendrikse 2
Pen: Hendrikse

Red card: Giacomo Nicotera (Benetton – 43’ for dangerous play)
Yellow card: Malakai Fekitoa (Benetton – 67’ for dangerous play)

Teams:

Benetton: 15 Rhyno Smith, 14 Tommaso Menoncello, 13 Ignacio Brex, 12 Malakai Fekitoa, 11 Onisi Ratave, 10 Jacob Umaga, 9 Alessandro Garbisi, 8 Toa Halafihi, 7 Sebastian Negri, 6 Alessandro Izekor, 5 Eli Snyman (captain), 4 Niccolò Cannone, 3 Simone Ferrari, 2 Giacomo Nicotera, 1 Thomas Gallo
Replacements: 16 Bautista Bernasconi, 17 Mirco Spagnolo, 18 Giosué Zilocchi, 19 Federico Ruzza, 20 Henry Time-Stowers, 21 Lorenzo Cannone, 22 Andy Uren, 23 Tomas Albornoz

Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Stean Pienaar, 13 Erich Cronje, 12 Zander du Plessis, 11 Rabz Maxwane, 10 Jordan Hendrikse, 9 Morne van den Berg, 8 Hanru Sirgel, 7 Emmanuel Tshituka, 6 JC Pretorius, 5 Darrien Landsberg, 4 Willem Alberts, 3 Conraad van Vuuren, 2. Jaco Visagie (captain), 1 Morgan Naude.
Replacements: 16 Morne Brandon, 17 Ruan Dreyer, 18 Ruan Smith, 19 Ruan Delport, 20 Izan Esterhuizen, 21 Francke Horn, 22 Nico Steyn, 23 Manuel Rass

Referee: Christophe Ridley (England)
Assistant referees: Jon Healy (England), Joe James (England)
TMO: Dean Richards (England)

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