Lions run riot over Leinster in a crucial United Rugby Championship match

LIONS celebrate one of Emmanuel Tshituka’s tries against Leinster at Ellis Park Stadium in Johannesburg yesterday. | BackpagePix

LIONS celebrate one of Emmanuel Tshituka’s tries against Leinster at Ellis Park Stadium in Johannesburg yesterday. | BackpagePix

Published Apr 20, 2024


JUBILANT Lions supporters could not contain their pride on Saturday at Ellis Park, as their team crushed the mighty Leinster with an emphatic, bonus-point victory in a crucial United Rugby Championship clash.

Francke Horn had just completed the 44-12 rout, crashing over the tryline for the Lions’ sixth try in the final play of the match, as their supporters streamed onto the field, invading the picth before the final whistle had been sounded.

Jordan Hedrikse duly finished the match by slotting over the conversion, as the triumphant Lions shepherded the crowd back to the half-way line, and although a messy end to a riveting display, the action will surely impress upon Ivan van Rooyen’s charges the magnitude of the results.

In truth, the Lions victory was built on a magnificent blitz in the first 15 minutes of the match, as uncharacteristic errors from a usually well-drilled Leinster opened the door to secure an early 22-0 lead. It was then that the Lions ran riot, scoring three unanswered tries through Morne van den Berg, Marius Louw and Quan Horn.

And while that rip-roaring start would never be overtaken by Leinster, the Lions must also take pride in their defence, too, for a period of arm-wrestling followed, in which Leinster could not breach the hosts tryline.

With 30 minute on the clock, Leinster worked themselves into the perfect scoring position, rumbling forward with their heavies, but the resolute defence of Emmanuel Tshituka on the tryline denied them at their first real crack.

What followed was determined pressure from the visitors. First, Liam Turner came desperately close to finally scoring, splitting the Lions defence with a powerful run, but his final lunge towards the tryline was adjudged by the TMO as having come up short.

Leinster remained camped in the Lions 22, thereafter, but then, as had been the case throughout the first stanza, the visitors could not convert that territorial advantage into any points, the final act seeing early replacement Cormac Foley knocking the ball on with the tryline beckoning.

Aided by the Lions own shortcomings, Leinster did eventually open their account with a perfectly weighted grubber by Harry Byrne in the 53rd minute, collected neatly by Ciaran Frawley, to cut the lead to 22-7.

Frawley would crashover for his brace after a huge effort from his team nine minutes later, but the Lions would not be denied in securing their first victory over Leinster.

A brace from Tshituka, Horn’s try in his 50th appearance for the union, a penalty from Sanele Nohamba, and conversions from Jordan Hendrikse – coupled with their poor first half display – cosigned Leinster to their first URC defeat since early January.

For the Lions, it propels them well and truly into the Top 8 discussions as they prepare for three more home games against Munster, Cardiff and Glasgow Warriors, before ending the regular season off against the Stormers in Cape Town.

Emirates Lions (22) 44

Tries: Morne van den Berg, Marius Louw, Quan Horn Emmanuel Tshituka (2), Francke Horn; Conversions: Sanele Nohamba (2), Jordan Henrikse (2); Penalty: Nohamba (2)

Leinster (0) 12

Tries: Cairan Frawley (2); Conversion: Harry Byrne