Durban – The Lions scrapped their hearts out in the Glasgow rain on Saturday afternoon but ultimately fell just short of beating the Warriors in an almighty United Rugby Championship tussle which saw the home side prevail 13-9.
After the Sharks had arrested the South African slide the night before against the Ospreys in Swansea, it looked like the Lions could follow suit when their forwards took control of the match and the rain doused the Warrior’s attacking intent.
It started badly, though, for the Joburgers when a reckless tackle from Lions wing Manuel Rass gave the Warriors a penalty after just 40 seconds. The ball was kicked to the corner, the lineout driven and the Warriors had a try after two minutes, via prop Jamie Bhatti.
The Lions immediately clawed three points back via the unlikely boot of EW Viljoen.
On the subject of the 24-year-old from Bloemfontein, the Lions had gone into the match potentially heavily handicapped by not having a genuine flyhalf for the game. Injuries to Jordan Hendrikse and Eddie Fouche forced coach Ivan van Rooyen into moving Viljoen from fullback to flyhalf, and there was a lot of doubt as to how he would fare, but he started very well by landing an early penalty and would go on to have a solid game under the circumstances.
Viljoen’s kicking was especially impressive given he is not accustomed to the role.
Glasgow flyhalf Ross Thompson kicked a penalty on 15 minutes for a 10-3 lead and then as the game hit the first-quarter mark, a high tackle by Viljoen saw the Warriors kick to the corner but the Lions survived the ensuing heavy siege on their line.
Their defence throughout the game was excellent.
And the Lions then forced a breakdown penalty in the Glasgow half and Viljoen narrowed the lead to 10-6 with a well-taken penalty kick at goal.
The Lions would have gone into half-time sensing that they could take the game being just four point behind after having conceded a seven-pointer so early on, and that belief would have grown all the more when it was their chance to score soon after a kick-off, Viljoen nailing three points after a Glasgow high tackle on Rass.
Just after the break, the rain began top our down which did not suit Glasgow’s free-flowing style of play, plus he Lions were enjoying an increasing superiority in the set scrums, earning both penalties and half penalties that helped swing the momentum their way.
And even when a Glasgow hack kick through the defence earned them a scrum near the Lions’ line, they were then scrummed off the ball.
Then 15 minutes from time, yet another scrum penalty gave Viljoen a shot at goal from just within his half and he had the legs but it drifted just wide. The all was them kicked deep into the Lions half and they made a terrible hash of it, giving Glasgow a scrum deep in the Lions’ 22, and this time the Scottish scrum held and while they could not get over the line after a series of surges, they did earn a penalty for Thompson to stroke home for a 13-9 lead.
Four minutes from time, the Lions again forced a scrum penalty and they had the chance to force a maul try from the kick to the corner only for the lineout throw to go astray, and Glasgow relieved the pressure.
Glasgow – 13: Tries: Jamie Bhatti. Conversions: Ross Thompson. Penalties: Thompson (2).
Lions – 9: Penalties: EW Viljoen (3).