The Lions bounced back from a week of off-field drama to secure a shock 25-17 win over the Brumbies in their Super 14 encounter in Johannesburg on Saturday – their first win over the Australian franchise since 2003.
Rugby 365 reports that it was three tries to two for a Lions team who had their forwards coach suspended for a racial slur in the build-up to Saturday’s encounter.
As coach Eugene Eloff admitted afterwards, it was the toughest win of his entire career.
However, the win will relieve some pressure on not only the team, but also the coaching staff.
The Lions, who started off hesitantly in the first 10 minutes or so, were more structured and tried to play in the visitors’ half.
Their tackling, except on a few occasions when the Brumbies took it wide, was magnificent and their pack, hunting together, secured many turnovers to frustrate the Australian side.
The return of Ernst Joubert, with Cobus Grobbelaar at his hardworking best, ensured that George Smith and company were beaten at the breakdown.
And behind the pack, Man of the Match Louis Ludik was outstanding in defence and attack.
The Brumbies went ahead after a Mark Gerrard penalty two minutes into the game, and got another two minutes later that they aimed for the corner flag.
The Lions missed a number of tackles during Brumbies sorties, Jano Vermaak lobbed a ball to his flyhalf Andre Pretorius and on another occasion Pretorius kicked a ball dead.
In fact, the World Cup flyhalf had an average first half which he atoned for with a drop kick a minute before the break. He twice kicked the ball dead, kicked it out on the full, dropped out on the full from the 22, and twice turned over possession with poor placement.
Then, just after the well-taken drop-goal and three minutes into the second half, he undid the good when Mark Chisholm charged down a Pretorius kick to score.
The Lions started playing with greater confidence after the jittery first ten minutes or so, and the hope for a surprise result flared on 14 minutes when Jaque Fourie, from a flat pass following a ruck, juggled as he went through the Brumbies line – but he held on to the ball and scored under the posts for Pretorius to convert (7-3).
Five minutes later, again from a turnover, the Lions started running from deep inside their own half. Ashwin Willemse did some great work before a few short passes saw the Lions advance to 40 metres out. As the ball popped loose, Vermaak fly-kicked ahead and won the race (12-3).
The Lions still didn’t protect the ball well enough after tackles, and too often the Brumbies were allowed to make the first breach when they stretched their attack wide. But the home side looked the part after the 25 minutes.
The Brumbies missed a penalty attempt, and twice the Lions broke away only for lack of support and wrong options to deny them what looked like certain tries.
The Brumbies scored next, however, when Stirling Mortlock scored under the posts shortly after the sin-binning of Lions captain Cobus Grobbelaar for a ruck offence (12-10).
Then came Pretorius’ drop-goal, and the Lions changed 15-10 ahead, just for Chisholm and Mortlock’s conversion to put the visitors 17-15 ahead after 43 minutes.
Earl Rose came on after 45 minutes and Pretorius moved to inside centre. He slotted another penalty to move the Lions back into the lead (18-15) and Rose used three pin-point diagonal kicks to the corners to keep the Lions on the attack.
The Brumbies then had a prolonged period in the Lions 22, winning ruck after ruck, but the home defence held – and then they turned it around.
With Fourie going off with cramp, replacement scrumhalf Chris Jock played wing with Ludik and Shandre Frolick at No.15, the reshuffled backline held their own as the Brumbies lost Mortlock to injury.
They threw everything into attack, but most of it was from their own half as especially Rose and Vermaak kept turning them around. It was risky stuff, and the Brumbies paid the price as they dropped the ball in their own 22.
Ludik picked up to score – and the Brumbies were denied a bonus point as Pretorius was allowed a second conversion after an early charge for the Lions to win 25-17.
Man of the match: For the Brumbies George Smith was his usual bustling self, but on the day he was beaten at the breakdown by Cobus Grobbelaar and Ernst Joubert. Jano Vermaak was also a livewire and a great threat to the Brumbies. But our award will go to Lions fullback Louis Ludik for his assured performance on attack and defence.
For the Lions:
Tries: Fourie, Vermaak, Ludik
Cons: Pretorius 2
For the Brumbies:
Tries: Mortlock, Chisholm
Cons: Gerrard, Mortlock
Yellow card: Cobus Grobbelaar (Lions, 34 – repeated infringements, not rolling away at tackle)Tweet