Lions beat Reds in wet Ellis Park encounter
JOHANNESBURG – Rookie wing Tyrone Green was his team’s big hero as the Lions edged the Reds in a round two Super Rugby clash at Ellis Park on Saturday.
The energetic Green, who asked several good questions of the opposition through the time he was on the field, scored two first half-tries that paved the way for the Lions registering their first win of the 2020 competition after coming unstuck against the Jaguares in Buenos Aires in round one. The Reds, who lost away from home to the Brumbies in week one, are now nought from two.
What is crystal clear though is that not the Lions or the Reds will win Super Rugby this year. They are both average sides who’ll do well to challenge for top spot in their respective conferences.
Conditions weren’t great here on Saturday, but they were not that bad either. The Lions, competition runners-up on three occasions in the last four years, are a side very much in a rebuilding phase, while the Reds, as has been the case for a few years now, simply don’t have the depth or class to be considered a serious contender.
The Lions surprisingly battled in the forward-exchanges and especially in the scrums, with veteran prop Jannie du Plessis taking a beaten at the set-piece by JP Smith, while the home team’s lineout work was at times also fairly average. If there’s one area where the Reds have got better under new coach, former All Black Brad Thorn, it’s up front.
The handling on both sides was, understandably, poor, but where the Lions did shine was in their mauling play, even if they did overdo it on occasion. It brought them several gains over the 80 minutes and is something they can take positives from going forward.
Green was the big star with his two tries, but not far behind for effort was flank Marnus Schoeman, who got his team’s third try in the second half, while rookie No 9 Morne van den Berg was full of energy and showed he has plenty in him to become a star in future.
After going behind early on to a penalty, the Lions scored their first try after seven minutes by Green, who collected and dotted down after a well-weighted grubber by Elton Jantjies. Almost immediately the Reds replied with a try by wing Jock Campbell, who ran in untouched from the halfway line and then Green got his second, standing on his opposite wing, after a good period of play by the Lions.
A Reds penalty in the 25th minute gave them a 13-10 lead and then five minutes either side of half-time the visitors lost men to the sin-bin, reducing them to 13. In that period, Schoeman scored his try, from a lineout drive to put his side ahead, but the Reds hit back again, on 63 minutes by scrumhalf Tate McDermott, who dived over from close range after a lengthy period of his side being camped inside the Lions 22m area. The conversion by Bryce Hegarty put the men from Brisbane 20-17 up and in charge.
The Lions though went ahead again when wing Courtnall Skosan powered through a gap to score a converted try and moments later Jantjies slotted a penalty to give his team a 27-20 lead with minutes left on the clock.
The Lions did what was asked of them – they won – but they’ll face a far stronger opponent in round three, when the Stormers visit on Saturday.
Lions (17) 27: Tries: Green (2), Schoeman, Skosan; Conversions: Jantjies (2); Penalty: Jantjies
Reds (13) 20: Tries: Campbell, McDermott; Conversions: Hegarty (2); Penalties: Hegarty (2)