Cape Town – Lions coach Ivan van Rooyen said he was “immensely proud” of the performance of his team in Saturday’s 35-24 United Rugby Championship victory over the Glasgow Warriors at Ellis Park.
The Johannesburg side were up against it just on paper, as the Scottish outfit had come into the fixture with a 10-match unbeaten run, having won nine and drawn one following the November 26 defeat to Leinster in Dublin.
Even though Franco Smith’s team were missing a whole host of internationals who are on Six Nations duty, they were still favourites against the Lions team reeling from off-field problems and last week’s 29-7 loss to the Sharks at Ellis Park.
But despite two yellow cards and a red card in the second half, the home side still scored five tries for a welcome bit of good news after a difficult couple of weeks.
“I was immensely proud of that. That’s why I say when you lose your outside backs especially, there is a lot of work that needs to happen on the inside to be okay defensively and on attack,” Van Rooyen said in the post-match press conference.
“The forwards and the inside backs had a massive work-rate, and a massive effort today – Mara (Marius Louw), Manny (Rass). At one stage, it felt like we were playing with about 10 or 11 forwards: just carrying the ball up, trying to get us momentum and trying to get us quick ball.
“Massive effort from the guys, and really proud of that. There were one or two good discussions in the week around that, and the only way we can talk and show how the guys care is between the four white lines.
“So, I’m really proud of the guys. Their effort and care was special today. So, very proud of them, and obviously relieved to win at home against a quality Glasgow team that last lost about 10 games ago.”
The Lions ran up a 24-7 lead in the first half after tries by scrumhalf Sanele Nohamba, No 8 Francke Horn and centre Manuel Rass, but Glasgow never gave up and fought back to 24-14.
The Scottish side earned a four-try bonus point as well, but the hosts kept their nerve in the second half following yellow cards to Edwill van der Merwe and Quan Horn, as well as a red card to prop Ruan Dreyer (for a dangerous ruck clean-out) to claim a vital victory.
“It’s never ideal, but I think sometimes it shows how desperate you can be for a win and to get the ball back,” captain Louw said.
“But there are definitely ways to control it, and it’s something we talk about a lot. I feel that our discipline in general was actually good over the past few weeks. But a quality team that put you under pressure, you will make mistakes and concede penalties.
“But I thought that we didn’t stand back, and we handled it correctly with 13 guys on the field on two occasions for 10-plus minutes.”
Lions 35 – Tries: Sanele Nohamba, Francke Horn, Manuel Rass, Edwill van der Merwe, Ruan Venter. Conversions: Gianni Lombard (2). Penalty: Lombard (2).
Glasgow 24 – Tries: Eli Caven, Cole Forbes, Tom Jordan, Thomas Gordon. Conversions: Jordan (2).