Lions throw lead away to lose to Ospreys in Challenge Cup

George North of Osprey runs with the ball in the EPCR Challenge Cup agains the Lions at Ellis Park in Johannesburg

Three tries in the last eight minutes secured a comeback bonus-point win for the Ospreys over the Lions in Johannesburg in their European Challenge Cup clash. Seen here: George North of Osprey runs with the ball. Picture: Photo by Huw Evans/Shutterstock

Published Jan 21, 2024


Three tries in the last eight minutes secured a comeback bonus-point win for the Ospreys over the Lions in Johannesburg on Sunday in their final pool game of the European Challenge Cup.

It looked like the Lions had done enough to secure the victory after going ahead 28-17 with about 20 minutes left, and they just had to stay in the game to seal it, but the trio of five-pointers from the fighting Welshmen secured the 38-28 victory.

This is the Ospreys' first win in all competitions over the Johannesburg side. They face each other in the United Rugby Championship as well.

The Lions conceded three yellow cards at Ellis Park, playing for 50 minutes with 14 men, and at the death, the last yellow card proved costly to the home side.

Costly yellow cards

Replacement loose forward Hanru Sirgel was sent off with about 15 minutes left and it opened the door for the fightback. In his time off the field, the Ospreys hit back with two tries to take the lead against the odds.

Eighth man Morgan Moose intercepted a pass close to the final whistle to take the losing bonus point away from the Lions. Winger Keelan Giles and replacement prop Cameron Jones scored the other two tries that started the comeback.

It was everything but the perfect performance in front of their home fans for the Lions, their ill-discipline and some errors on defence, allowed the Welsh side to stay in the game throughout.

There were plenty of opportunities for the Lions to take the game away from their opponents, but they could not do that. Late in the game with the 28-17 lead, they should've seen things through.

Sirgel was about two minutes on the field and conceded a penalty after not staying on his feet at a tackle. Minutes before that, an infringement by captain Marius Louw brought the team discipline warning from the referee.

Louw, for a late shoulder charge, and hooker PJ Botha, for a leading elbow on a run, copped the other two yellow cards. The Lions also had a couple of tries - correctly - cancelled out, but they should've had the nerves to shut the Ospreys out.

Up until his yellow card, centre Louw had a good game and scored two tries thanks to some good attacking plays by his side. Louw's try after a lineout and break by winger Edwill van der Merwe was arguably the best Lions try of the game.

Flanker JC Pretorius also had a busy day around the park, poaching balls and putting in some strong tackles.

Silver lining

Despite the loss, the Lions qualified for the playoffs of the Challenge Cup, but if they want to go further in the competition, they will have to do it the hard way with a difficult knockout opponent.

If they sealed the win, they would've ended in the top three of their pool.


Lions 28 (18): Tries: Marius Louw (2), JC Pretorius, Morne van den Berg. Conversion: Sanele Nohamba. Penalties: Nohamba (3).

Ospreys 38 (14): Owen Watkin, George North, Keelan Giles, Cameron Jones, Morgan Morse. Conversions: Dan Edwards (2), Jack Walsh (3). Penalty: Edwards.


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