Lions make it three in a row with sublime comeback
MATCH REPORT: The Lions kept alive their play-off hopes with a come-from-behind bonus-point win over Benetton in a United Rugby Championship Round 16 match at Stadio Monigo, in Treviso, on Saturday.
The teams scored four tries each, but two Sanele Nohamba penalties – one in each half – proved to be the difference in the end.
Trailing 10-21 at the half-time break and still down 13-28 going into the final quarter, the Lions produced a sublime comeback blitzkrieg to run out 32-28 winners.
It was the Lions’ third successive URC win – coming on the back of victories over Glasgow Warriors and the Bulls – and puts them within striking distance of a top-eight finish.
The Lions now face Leinster, at Ellis Park, and Zebre, at Loftus Versfeld – coming after a couple of rounds of Challenge Cup action.
* To recap all the drama in Treviso, CLICK HERE!
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In the opening 10 minutes, Benetton had 70 percent of the possession and 90 percent of the territorial advantage.
Yet the Lions opened the scoring with a Sanele Nohamba penalty towards the end of the first quarter.
It did not stop Benetton from continuing their expansive approach and eventually getting the first try and adding a second soon afterwards – as the Lions’ brittle defence was exposed time and again.
The Lions, enjoying a period of sustained possession, also found their scoring form – despite some sloppy errors and a shocking lack of discipline.
After the break it was much of the same – the Lions opening the scoring with a penalty, before it all went pear-shaped for the visitors – scrumhalf Sanele Nohamba yellow carded for a cynical foul. The bonus-point try for Benetton came while the Lions were a man down.
The Lions eventually awoke from their mid-game slumber – with three quick-fire tries by Emmanuel Tshituka (a brace) and Sibahle Maxwane helping the visitors regain the lead.
And suddenly they had all the energy and momentum in the game, with Benetton making the kind of mistakes that suggested a measure of panic in the home team’s ranks.
The Lions, despite a few nervous moments of their own, held on for a valuable win.
Tries from Joaquin Riera, Marcus Watson, Siua Maile and Henry Time-Stowers had appeared to put Benetton on track for a victory which would have been vital to their own play-off hopes.
The Lions broke the deadlock after 16 minutes when Sanele Nohamba sent over a simple penalty after Niccolo Cannone was penalised for offside.
Benetton went over for the game’s opening try after 21 minutes when some sloppy defensive play from the Lions enabled Riera to dummy his way through a static backline and coast in under the posts.
Five minutes later Watson showed his finishing ability when he dived in at left corner after a well-weighted final pass along the line from Jacob Umaga gave him enough space to take advantage of the opportunity and the flyhalf then converted from the touchline.
The Lions hit back, though, when a rolling maul earned the field position before Nohamba’s pass picked out Quan Horn to dive over.
A cheap penalty for a side entry at the maul enabled Benetton to kick to touch and the clean line-out win and driving maul pushed Lions back before Maile dropped on the ball over the line.
Nohamba sent over an early second-half penalty for the Lions, before Benetton got the bonus-point try halfway through the second period when replacement Time-Stowers bulldozed through the Lions pack to touch down from a quick line-out throw.
The Lions did not give up and responded with two tries in two minutes – as Tshituka went in at the left corner, before Franck Horn burst through numerous Benetton tackles and offloaded to Maxwane to run in.
Quick hands deep in the Benetton half then created space for Tshituka to power over for his second try and the Lions’ third in six minutes, converted by Nohamba.
Tries: Riera, Watson, Maile, Time-Stowers
Cons: Umaga 4
Tries: Horn, Tshituka 2, Maxwane
Cons: Nohamba 3
Pens: Nohamba 2
Yellow card: Sanele Nohamba (Lions, 49 – cynical foul, deliberate knock-on)
Benetton: 15 Matteo Minozzi, 14 Onisi Ratave, 13 Joaquin Riera, 12 Filippo Drago, 11 Marcus Watson, 10 Jacob Umaga, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage (captain), 8 Lorenzo Cannone, 7 Manuel Zuliani, 6 Giovanni Pettinelli, 5 Riccardo Favretto, 4 Niccolò Cannone, 3 Simone Ferrari, 2 Siua Maile, 1 Nahuel Tetaz.
Replacements: 16 Bautista Bernasconi, 17 Thomas Gallo, 18 Tiziano Pasquali, 19 Federico Ruzza, 20 Henry Time-Stowers, 21 Alessandro Garbisi, 22 Giacomo Da Re, 23 Marco Zanon.
Lions: 15 Quan Horn, 14 Sibahle Maxwane, 13 Manuel Rass, 12 Marius Louw (captain), 11 Edwill van der Merwe, 10 Gianni Lombard, 9 Sanele Nohamba, 8 Francke Horn, 7 Ruan Venter, 6 Emmanuel Tshituka, 5 Ruben Schoeman, 4 Willem Alberts, 3 Asenathi Ntlabakanye, 2 Pieter Botha, 1 Jean-Pierre Smith.
Replacements: 16 Morné Brandon, 17 Rhynardt Rijnsburger, 18 Ruan Dreyer, 19 Reinhard Nothnagel, 20 Travis Gordon, 21 Morné van den Berg, 22 Rynhardt Jonker, 23 Andries Coetzee.
Referee: Frank Murphy (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Filippo Russo (Italy), Filippo Vinci (Italy)
TMO: Joy Neville (Ireland)
* Additional reporting by @URCOfficial