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The 'massive' positive Lions took out of Euro loss

REACTION: The Lions will head into their final Challenge Cup league match this coming Sunday with a European play-off spot safely tucked away.

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Quarterfinalists last season, the Lions are eager to advance further this campaign – having qualified for the knockout stages with wins over Perpignan and Newcastle Falcons.

They lost 3-13 to French giants Montpellier this past weekend, but took heart from the performance of a side made up mostly of fringe players.

The frontline selection remained in Johannesburg to prepare for the Round Four encounter with Ospreys – determined to finish as high as possible on the pool standings.

Montpellier heads Pool Two with 14 points, followed by Benetton (11), the Lions and Ospreys (both nine points).

Montpellier travel to Treviso to face Benetton, and the Lions host Ospreys – all four teams having already qualified.

Challenge Cup Pool Two standings after three rounds

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Lions scrumhalf Nico Steyn pointed to defence as the key, if they are to progress further this season.

Against Montpellier, they showed the resilience that may see them go deeper into the play-offs this season.

With Montpellier dominating possession (63 percent) and territory (59 percent) at Stade Yves-du-Manoir, the Lions were forced to make 181 tackles, at a success rate of 88 percent.

“The massive positive we can take out of the Montpellier encounter was our defensive effort,” he said of a game against a team that featured some very familiar international names – Springboks Jan Serfontein (who captained them against the Lions), double World Cup winner Cobus Reinach, New Zealander George Bridge, one-time Springbok Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg and South African-born French international Paul Willemse.

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“Every player stood their ground and made their tackles,” Steyn added.

“They [Montpellier] kept coming at us, but we didn’t take a step backwards.

“That shows the character of this team.

“We made a lot of errors and discipline cost us, but we will take heart from that.”

Loose forward Johannes Pretorius and lock Darrien Landsberg topped the tackle stats with 18 each, followed by Jaco Visagie, Izan Esterhuizen (both 15) and Hanru Sirgel (14).

In contrast, the leading Montpellier tackler was lock Bastien Chalureau on 10.

Turning to Sunday’s crunch game, there are some intriguing comparisons from their games against French sides this season.

The Lions beat Perpignan 28-12 away, but lost 3-13 to Montpellier away.

Ospreys lost 5-38 to Montpellier away, but beat Perpignan 25-3 at home.

With so much at stake, Ellis Park is going to be a red-hot cauldron when the Lions host Ospreys on Sunday.

@king365ed
@rugby365com

* Picture credit: @LionsRugbyCo

Montpellier-v-Lions-match-stats

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