Leinster miss opportunity to stretch lead as Lions strengthen play-off bid

FILE - Lions head coach Ivan Van Rooyen. Photo: Marty Melville/AFP

FILE - Lions head coach Ivan Van Rooyen. Photo: Marty Melville/AFP

Published Apr 20, 2024


Leinster missed the chance to extend their lead at the top of the United Rugby Championship after suffering a 44-12 defeat to the Lions at Ellis Park in Johannesburg on Saturday.

The Irish province, who last week booked their place in the Champions Cup semi-finals after eliminating holders La Rochelle, had won 11 of their last 12 matches in the competition.

But, having made 13 changes, Leo Cullen’s side were blown away inside the opening 15 minutes as three Lions tries put them on the way to a victory which boosts their play-off hopes.

Leinster are now just one point clear of Glasgow Warriors with four rounds remaining while the Lions climbed into the top eight.

The Lions made a stunning start and grabbed the opening try inside 40 seconds as Richard Kriel and JC Pretorius combined to send Morne van den Berg in under the posts, with Sanele Nohamba converting before kicking a penalty seven minutes later.

A fantastic team try saw the Lions score again in the 10th minute, Francke Horn, Van den Berg and Marius Louw all involved before the latter cruised over but Nohamba was unable to add the extras.

It went from bad to worse for Leinster three minutes later as Nohamba pounced on a loose ball before putting Quan Horn through, which the former converted for a 22-0 lead.

Leinster pair Liam Turner and Cormac Foley had tries disallowed for a knock on and forward pass respectively either side of the break before Nohamba’s penalty extended the Lions’ lead.

The Irish side finally got on the board in the 53rd minute when Ciaran Frawley pounced on a grubber kick from Harry Byrne, who added the extras.

But moments later the Lions secured the bonus point when Emmanuel Tshituka went over after loose play from Leinster but Nohamba could not convert.

Frawley claimed his second try following some slick passing from Leinster but Byrne missed his kick to leave the score 30-12.

Tshituka and Francke Horn added further tries in the final five minutes, both converted by Jordan Hendrikse, to cap an excellent day for the Lions.

United Rugby Championship