Tshituka on the double as Lions get bonus-point win
MATCH REPORT: The Lions continued their climb up the United Rugby Championship rankings with a 32-15 bonus-point win over the Scarlets at Ellis Park, in Johannesburg, on Sunday.
The four tries to three win saw the Lions move up to fifth place after nine rounds.
It also puts the Lions at full-house four wins from four starts against Welsh opposition – having earlier this season beaten the Ospreys (28-27), Cardiff (31-18) and the Dragons (33-25).
The Dragons get another shot at the Lions in the European Challenge Cup, which kicks off next week.
The Lions’ dominant set pieces and rush defence caused the visitors some problems in the first half.
However, the home team did not always get the reward for their dominance, with Scottish referee Ben Blain opting to penalise the Lions for several of the collapsed scrums.
The Lions’ biggest problem was their ball control, with a number of promising opportunities going to waste through sloppy handling.
In stark contrast, the Scarlets used every negative trick in the book to slow the game down and negate the effects of altitude.
When they did opt to play, the visitors asked some serious questions of the Lions’ defence.
In the second half, the home team made their set-piece dominance count and got better reward for it.
* To recap all the drama, CLICK HERE!
The Lions got off to a near-perfect start – Edwill van der Merwe launching a blistering counter-attack that resulted in a penalty and a failed line-out maul.
A penalty soon afterwards allowed flyhalf Jordan Hendrikse to open the hosts’ account.
Van der Merwe started a counter that resulted in the first try – Sibahle Maxwane exposing the Scarlets’ defence with his weaving, stepping run for the first five-pointer. Hendrikse hooked his conversion attempt past the uprights – 8-0 after 12 minutes.
An offside penalty gifted the Scarlets their first opportunity – Sam Costelow hooking the sitter past the left upright.
From a dominant scrum five metres out, Emmanuel Tshituka powered his way over for the Lions’ second try. Hendrikse made it 15-0, after 22 minutes.
Just past the half-hour mark, Scarlets set up a line–out close to the Lions’ line and from a powerful maul No.8 Dan Davis worked his way over. The conversion was wide – 5-15.
Just before the half-time break, both teams were reduced to 14 men – Lions centre Sango Xamlashe for a cynical foul (not rolling away in the tackle) and Scarlets flyhalf Sam Costelow for foul play (a high tackle) sent to the sin bin with yellow cards.
Hendrikse slotted a second penalty at the stroke of half-time – 18-5 at the break.
The Lions, after a period of some sloppy play, managed to stretch their lead with great deception at the line-out, which allowed veteran Springbok Jaco Kriel to stroll over untouched. Hendrikse made it 25-5 just short of the hour mark.
The Lions, now their own worst enemies, gifted the visitors a try with an overthrown line-out – Thomas Rogers strolling over in the right corner. The conversion attempt drifted wide – 10-25.
A kicking duel ensued, with the Lions getting the edge with their ‘local knowledge’.
With 10 minutes remaining Lions flyhalf Jordan Hendrikse was set to the sin bin for a cynical foul – rule to have used hands in the ruck.
Despite being a man down the Lions scored next. Tshituka got his second and the home team’s bonus-point try, coming off the back of another powerful scrum. Replacement Zander du Plessis added the conversion – 32-10.
There was enough time for a consolation score by Sam Lousi – making the final score 32-15 to the home team.
Man of the match: You can look at a number of the Lions’ players – like Jordan Hendrikse, despite his late yellow card, Darrien Landsberg and young replacement Ruan Venter. The man that deserves it most is Lions No.8 Emmanuel Tshituka – with his two tries, seven impressive carries, a clean break and five defenders beaten.
For the Lions
Tries: Maxwane, Tshituka 2, Kriel
Cons: Hendrikse 2, Du Plessis
Pens: Hendrikse 2
For the Scarlets
Tries: Davis, Rogers, Lousi
Yellow cards: Sango Xamlashe (Lions, 38 – cynical foul, not rolling away in tackle), Sam Costelow (Scarlets, 40 – foul play, high tackle), Jordan Hendrikse (Lions, 70 – cynical foul, hands in the ruck)
Lions: 15 Quan Horn, 14 Sibahle Maxwane, 13 Sango Xamlashe, 12 Marius Louw, 11 Edwill van der Merwe, 10 Jordan Hendrikse, 9 Sanele Nohamba, 8 Emmanuel Tshituka, 7 Darrien Landsberg, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Reinhard Nothnagel (captain), 4 Ruben Schoeman, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Pieter Botha, 1 Sithembiso Sithole.
Replacements: 16 Jaco Visagie, 17 Jean-Pierre Smith, 18 Asenathi Ntlabakanye, 19 Ruan Venter, 20 Sibusiso Sangweni, 21 Andre Warner, 22 Gianni Lombard, 23 Zander du Plessis.
Scarlets: 15 Johnny McNicholl, 14 Thomas Rogers, 13 Jonathan Davies (captain), 12 Scott Williams, 11 Ryan Conbeer; 10 Sam Costelow, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Blade Thomson, 7 Dan Davis, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 Vaea Fifita, 4 Sam Lousi, 3 WillGriff John, 2 Taylor Davies, 1 Phil Price.
Replacements: 16 Shaun Evans, 17 Steff Thomas, 18 Javan Sebastian, 19 Sione Kalamafoni, 20 Tomás Lezana, 21 Dane Blacker, 22 Rhys Patchell, 23 Steff Evans.
Referee: Ben Blain (Scotland)
Assistant referees: Aimee Barrett-Theron (South Africa), Christopher Allison (South Africa)
TMO: Frank Murphy (Ireland)