Springbok Marnitz Boshoff kicked 19 points with the boot as the Lions downed the Melbourne Rebels 34-17 in their Vodacom Super Rugby match at Ellis Park on Friday night.
It was the first time that the Lions have won six games in a Super Rugby season which has been an undoubted success for the Johannesburg side under coach Johan Ackermann while the defeat continued the Rebels miserable stat of never having won a game outside Australia.
But while they might of fell flat in the third quarter of the game, the Lions showed enough enterprise and attacking flair to overcome a Rebels side that looks tired and out of sorts.
Other than the breakdown, where the visitors competed well, there were few other areas where they matched the Lions and the home side’s traditional rally in the last 20 minutes was enough to see them through with comfort as they simply continued to build an innings.
Considering the Lions also fluffed at least two tries when they were over the line, the scoreline could well have been bigger and the Rebels will have loads of work to do before they finish their tournament against the Bulls in Pretoria next weekend.
Still, the Lions wouldn’t have complained about the perfect start they were given as the Rebels knocked the ball on metres from their own line from the kickoff and from the ensuing scrum the Lions went right before switching left and a long Marnitz Boshoff skip pass put Anthony Volminck in at the corner after just three minutes of the game.
Boshoff added a penalty shortly afterwards to stretch the lead to 8-0 but the Rebels showed their own attacking prowess by winning a penalty at the breakdown, with some quick thinking from scrumhalf Luke Burgess tapping and going before sending the ball wide to a flying Tom English, who outstripped the defenders to score.
Two more penalties by Boshoff to one by Jack Debreczeni set the Lions up for a 14-10 lead at the break but it wasn’t long into the second half and they were behind for the first time in the match as their own defensive system creaked under a barrage of attacks from the Rebels.
Colby Fainga’a nestled himself into the back of a lineout drive and the maul rumbled forward with no resistance to see the flanker fall over with ease and put his side 17-14 up.
A magnificent steal on the ground by Warwick Tecklenburg set up a counter-attack that stunned the Rebels, as Lionel Mapoe and captain Warren Whiteley were both prominent in the build-up before Tecklenburg once again got the ball at the end to finish the move he started and put his side back into the lead.
Replacement hooker Armand van der Merwe intercepted a ball and went off on a 60metre run, only to be caught a few metres from the line, but was adjudged to have used a double movement when he went over the line and wasn’t awarded the try. It was the second time – after Stokkies Hanekom’s knocked the ball on as he pounced on a loose ball in the Rebels dead-ball area, that the Lions had missed on a try-scoring opportunity.
Two more penalties by Boshoff settled the game in essence but when Scott Higginbotham upended Willie Britz away from the ball, he was given 10 minutes for his poor tackling technique and the Rebels lost any hope of coming back late in the game.
Higginbotham may hear more about the tackle from the citing officer after he slammed himself down on Britz as they landed.
With their one-man advantage, the Lions were always going to stretch the Rebels in the last 10 minutes, and a lovely move between Faf de Klerk and Warren Whiteley saw the captain burst over for his try and a resounding win on the evening.
Lions - Tries: Anthonie Volmink, Warwick Tecklenburg, Warren Whiteley; Conversions: Marnitz Boshoff (2); Penalties: Boshoff (5).
Rebels - Tries: Tom English, Colby Fainga'a; Conversions: Jack Debreczeni (2); Penalty: Debreczeni.