Force 15 - 24 Lions
TOO close for comfort, but the Lions registered their first win of a three-week tour of Australia on Saturday when they edged the Western Force in a tight game in Perth.
For the second week in a row the Lions were made to sweat for their victory but at the final whistle they had picked up a bonus point win, after outscoring their hosts three tries to nil.
Flyhalf Elton Jantjies sealed the deal in the 84th minute when he sliced through the Force defence and converted his try to give the Lions the perfect start on tour. Warren Whiteley had called for a scrum – from which Jantjies scored – with his team leading 17-15, when a kick into touch would have ended the game with his side on top.
All the Force could show for their efforts were five penalties by Ian Prior, but they were much better than their two wins to date suggests.
They asked questions of the Lions throughout the 80 minutes, they defended strongly and they played with plenty of passion and desire. The Lions’ class – and experience – got them home in the end.
Johan Ackermann’s men will now move on and next play the Rebels in Melbourne next Saturday.
The Lions got off to the perfect start, and were rewarded for dominating the early exchanges, when Lionel Mapoe took a short pass from Jantjies to open the scoring after just seven minutes.
At that stage it was all the Lions, who controlled the possession and enjoyed all the territory, and they also dominated the scrums, winning several penalties, but they simply couldn’t convert it into points.
And before they knew it the Force had closed the gap to just a point after Ian Prior slotted two penalties and by the time the game reached the 20 minute mark there was really nothing separating the teams.
The Lions were the better side, but they lacked in execution and accuracy – as they’d done the week before against the Jaguares – while the defence by the Force was simply outstanding. The home team played in the faces of the Lions and Warren Whiteley’s men simply had no foundation to work from.
But as the half edged to its conclusion Courtnall Skosan finished off on the left after some excellent work by his team-mates on the inside, especially Malcolm Marx, and with Jantjies’ conversion it was 14-6 to the Lions.
A third Prior penalty though closed the gap again at the interval and his fourth successful shot at goal straight after the break made it a two point game.
Jantjies though soon responded with a penalty for the Lions – a sign of the visitors’ frustration in trying to break down the Force – but Prior would again get his team in touching distance with a fifth penalty with 14 minutes to go.
It stayed like that until Jantjies accelerated through the tiniest of gaps late on to ensure a tight, but crucial victory for his team.
Force - Penalties: Prior (5)
Lions - Tries: Mapoe, Skosan, Jantjies; Conversions: Jantjies (3); Penalty: Jantjies