Lions make URC history with shock win over Connacht in Galway

A Connacht rugby player runs with ball in hand at the Lions defence

Playing with 14 men for over three quarters of the match, the Lions showed incredible determination to score an upset for the ages. Picture:

Published Mar 23, 2024


The Lions became the first South African team to beat a powerful Connacht at home as they clinched a 38-14 victory in their United Rugby Championship (URC) match at Dexcom Stadium, in Galway, Ireland, on Saturday.

Playing with 14 men for over three quarters of the match, the Lions showed incredible determination especially in defence, interspersed with some inspired moments with ball in hand to score an upset for the ages.

The win will see the Lions jump from 11th to eighth on the URC, while Connacht drop one spot to ninth.

After camping in the Connacht 22 for a short period inside the first 10 minutes, the Lions ran through the phases on their opposition tryline before Francke Horn dived over under the posts, and Jordan Hendrikse obliged with the conversion from in front to make it 7-0.

Connacht hit back

With just over a quarter of an hour played, Connacht hit back with a try from a short range penalty as Cian Prendergast dived over for the score. Flyhalf JJ Hanrahan nailed the conversion to level the scores.

The Lions, however, were dealt a heavy blow as prop Ntlabakanye Asenathi was red carded for a high tackle in the lead-up to the Connacht try - as the visitors faced the rest of the clash a man down.

Despite being reduced to 14 men, the Lions replied with a try from a rolling maul as JC Pretorius came away with the score as the Lions hit the lead again at 12-7 ahead.

On the stroke of half time the Lions thought they were over for their third try as Sanele Nohamba gathered the ball in a hole in the Connacht defence, but the movement was ruled out by the TMO for an obstruction.

Against the run of play in the 49th minute, Edwill van der Merwe pulled off a brilliant intercept pass and sprinted from the halfway line away from the flat-footed Connacht pursuers to score a scintilating try. Hendrikse was on target to make it 19-7.

Tense times

Connact struck back minutes later after a pick-and-go as Hanrahan rounded the Lions defence on their tryline to score under the posts. Converting his own try proved a formality as the hosts drew within five at 19-14 down with 25 minutes remaining in the encounter.

With the Lions attack battling to get over the advantage line on the Connacht 22 with 15 minutes left, Erich Cronje produced a moment of brilliance to slice through a gap and score next to the posts. Hendrikse nudged over the conversion to extend his side’s lead to 12 at 26-14 ahead.

The match was effectively sealed as a contest in the 71st minute as the Lions moved the ball through the hands, with Horn finding himself on the wing to gather the final pass and bag his second try of the evening. At 31-14 ahead with just over eight minutes remaining, the Lions were on course for a historic night against their Irish foes.

And just to rub salt into the Connacht wounds, Morne van den Berg finished off another electric Lions move which caught the host napping to move further ahead. Hendrikse managed the difficult conversion to make it 38-14 with time up on the clock.