Long-suffering Lions supporters, at last, enjoyed some solace when their team got out of jail by sneaking a 24-23 defeat of the Scarlets deep in the Welsh valleys on Saturday night.
Every week the Lions contrive to lose games they are in good positions to win. But on Saturday night the Llanelli crowd was silenced two minutes from time when their winger Stef Evans, produced a clanger when he took his time with a clearance attempt and was charged down by opposite number Richard Kriel, who gathered and fed Henco van Wyk for a stroll to the posts. The conversion gave the Lions a 24-23 lead they guarded fiercely until the final whistle,
Speaking of the Sharks, there was some consolation this weekend for coach John Plumtree when his son, Taine, had a stormer for the Scarlets.
The problem with the Lions is that for all the effort they put into a match, they just don’t have the cutting edge to turn tenacity into points.
In the opening quarter, neither side wanted to play any rugby. It was a kicking duel until Scarlets wing Tom Rogers went over in the corner.
The Lions had not looked threatening at all until Marius Louw burst through a ruck and dashed to the posts for an against-the-run-of-play try.
The visitors then won a scrum penalty only to lose the subsequent lineout. That went together with two early unforced errors when players lost the ball forward in contact.
The scrum dominance continued but again a penalty was wasted when flyhalf Nohamba missed touch. Three minutes before half-time, Nohamba missed a shot at goal that would have tied it up at 10-10.
Instead, as the half time hooter was about to sound, Lions prop Corne Fourie clumsily went into a tackle way too upright and they were lucky when the Scarlets attempt hit an upright.
Ruan Venter came out for the second half and was penalized twice in five minutes, with Lloyd kicking one of them over to extend the lead to 13-7.
The Lions’ response was decisive when they earned a penalty and instead of kicking it over, Nohamba took a quick tap that ultimately saw the forward rumble away at the line until PJ Botha muscled the ball onto the line. The Nohamba conversion gave the Lions the lead for the first time, 14-13 after 50 minutes.
Typically, the Lions promptly gave away a penalty for flyhalf Ione Lloyd to reclaim the lead at 16-14. The Lions had a great chance to go ahead on the scoreboard but kicked the penalty to the corner only to lose the lineout.
The Scarlets, by contrast, cashed in when they got into the Lions’ 22 and it was Ryan Elias who crashed over from a lineout drive. The conversion pushed the home team into a commanding 23-14 lead with ten minutes to go.
Nohamba cut the deficit to six points and then winger Evans stepped up to gift the game to the Lions.
Scarlets 23 — Tries: Tom Rogers, Ryan Elias. Penalties: Ioan Lloyd (2). Conversions: Lloyd (2).
Lions 24 — Tries: Marius Louw, PJ Botha, Henco van Wyk. Conversions: Sanele Nohamba (3). Penalty: Nohamba