Lions halt Rebels' unbeaten run
SUPER RUGBY MATCH REPORT: The Lions produced a stellar second-half performance for a 36-33 win over the Rebels in Johannesburg.
What a wonderful afternoon at Ellis Park on Saturday – a three-o’clock kick-off, a sunny Highveld afternoon, ten tries, a winner decided with the very last act of the match, and that winner was the home side. It was a day to remember. Not all of it was memorable but a lot was.
Uys Krige, poet, once defined a cliché as “a truth worn threadbare on the hearts of men”. Saying “it was a game of two halves” has certainly been worn threadbare in reporting on rugby matches, but it was so true in this match – at least as far as the scoring went.
After 42 minutes of the match, the visiting Rebels from Australia led 33-5. When the final whistle went, the Lions were winners 36-33, having scored 31 points to nil in 38 minutes of the second half.
In the first half the Lions had by far the better of possession and territory – some 70% – but the sharper Rebels scored the points. In the second half the Lions had a slightly bigger share of possession and territory, but this time they were sharper and scored the points.
A lot of it was a change of attitude. And altitude may also have helped.
There was also the question of discipline. For the second Super Rugby match in succession, the Rebels had two players in the sin bin and now top the nasty log for sin-binnings. And this time they conceded a vast number of penalties. A penalty count of 20-1 is way-out unusual. Altitude may have worked against the Rebels but so did the penalty country and two yellow cards, the first for Billy Meakes for a deliberate knock-on, the second for Angus Cottrell as punishment for the team’s many infringements.
But to the devilish/angelic details of the match.
Before it got going the two teams formed a big circle, arms around opponents, and the crowd stood in sympathy for those suffering in the horrible violence in Christchurch’s mosques during prayers on Friday afternoon.
The Lions, kicked off and soon scored, after which they settled down to watch the Rebels score. The Rebels were sharper and harder in the half. Their hands were better, their tackles sharper, and their rucking more vigorous and direct.
A penalty gave the Lions the first of seven five-metre lineouts in the match. Malcolm Marx threw to Dylan Smith at the front of the lineout. The prop threw back to Marx who ran over Will Genia to score in the left corner, and after five minutes, the Lions led 5-0. They then played for 45 minutes before they scored again.
The Rebels scored a try of great simplicity. After Marvin Orie had knocked on, Genia put the ball into a midfield scrum and went left. He did a runaround with Quade Cooper and sent wing Reece Hodge, on an overlap, over in the left corner. 5-all after 7 minutes.
Another penalty set the Lions attacking again and the Rebels defending with powerful concentration. Seven metres from the Rebels’ goal-line, the Lions’ handling went awry and Billy Meakes got the ball. Soon he was running down the left and set hooker Anaru Rangi galloping till Cooper took a pass and drifted over for a 93-metre try. 12-5 after 13 minutes.
The Lions were freekicked at a scrum. Genia tapped and grubbered into in-goal where Dane Haylett-Petty knocked on trying to score. The Rebels were penalised at the ensuing scrum, as they were six times during the match, the sixth time tellingly. The Lions won the lineout and were going left. Elton Jantjies passed and Meakes caught the ball and ran some 30 empty metres to score at the posts. 19-5 after 20 minutes, as the Rebels turned a purple patch to gold.
From a scrum, that man Meakes charged ahead towards the posts. No.8 Isi Naisarani carried it on as Lions jumped on him. There was a heap of players at the posts, the referee could see the ball grounded against the padding and referred the matter to the TMO, stating that his onfield decision was a try. And so it was. 26-5 after 23 minutes. In 13 minutes the Rebels had scored 21 points.
It could have been more. Jantjies kicked, Jack Maddocks counterattacked on the right and Tom English lost the ball at the left cornerpost as Wandisile Simelane tackled him.
It took just two minutes of the second half for the Rebels to build what seemed to be a winning position. On his goal-line, Jantjies knocked on a pass from his scrumhalf. From the five-metre scrum, the Rebels scored the simplest of tries. Genia passed to Meakes, and he passed to English who scored at the posts. 33-5, five tries to one. The Rebels looked to be sitting pretty.
But then Lions started playing their own running game, passing and backing up.
They went through a routine from a five-metre lineout and Marnus Schoeman scored. 33-12 after 50 minutes.
Newboy Tyrone Green broke on the right, a penalty produced a messy five-metre lineout and substitute Andries Coetzee scored in the right corner. Jantjies converted from touch. 33-19 after 53 minutes.
It was the Lions’ turn to have a gold-bearing purple patch.
Green grubbered down the right and into the Rebels’ in-goal where it was rumbling towards the dead-ball line with an insouciant Quade Cooper close to the ball when suddenly Lionel Mapoe darted close and grounded the ball for a try. Again Jantjies converted from touch. 33-26 after 56 minutes.
The Rebels attacked on their right but broad Marx won a turnover and the next thing Kwagga Smith was racing down the touchline, gobbling up the metres. Challenged, he played inside to Courtnall Skosan who had an unimpeded run to the posts, and the score was 33-all after 64 minutes.
Those last 16 minutes belonged to the Lions. But it seemed that they did not even want to score. Coetzee had a long run but when he passed inside to Sithembiso Sithole, the prop knocked on with a gilt-edged chance to score. They had four penalties in what seemed easy kicking positions but they tapped one, lineouted two and scrummed another till with time virtually up, the Rebels had a scrum well inside their half. They packed down with seven men. The Lions destroyed the Rebels who shattered and were penalised.
About seven metres in from touch, Gianni Lombaard, 21 years of age, born in Worcester and schooled at Paarl Boys’ High, who had replaced Jantjies with 11 minutes to play, coolly kicked the winning goal.
The points scored in the second half were more than those scored in the first half, and the Lions had won when all seemed lost.
Man of the Match: Billy Meakes made tries and scored one. He was always affective. Adam Coleman was forceful. But we are going to choose a Lion. Lock Stephan Lewies had an excellent second half, Kwagga Smith did some wonderful things in that half, too, till be was subbed a but our choice Ross Cronje played the whole match in his calm, effective, skilful manner, saving dangerous situations and helping to create profitable ones.
Tries: Marx, Schoeman, Mapoe, Skosan, Coetzee
Cons: Jantjies 4
Pens: , Lombard
For Melbourne Rebels:
Tries: Hodge, Cooper, Meakes, Naisarani, English
Cons: Cooper 4
To read our PREVIEW for Round Five, CLICK HERE.
For PREDICTIONS for Round Five, CLICK HERE.
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As it happened: Lions v Rebels
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