The Lions shoved them around in the scrums which rewarded them with two penalty tries
In the first of their 15-match Lions Challenge, the Lions, in their new outfits, beat Russia 51-13 at wet Ellis Park on Saturday night after leading 20-3 at the break.
Their challenge is the union's answer to being dropped from Super Rugby for the Southern Kings. They kicked off their competition in grand style, playing clever rugby despite the constant rain.
The Russians, who are preparing for the FIRA-AER European Nations Cup were willing, well mannered and simply not strong enough. The Lions shoved them around in the scrums which rewarded them with two penalty tries, were stronger on the drive and varied their play more. The Russians occasionally passed the ball down their backline in regulation fashion but mostly they bashed at close quarters with no obvious advantage. there was little skill or creativity in what they did.
They also suffered an outbreak of sanctionary cards - yellow against Andrei Temnov and Valeriy Tsnobiladze and red against Igor Klyuchnikov. That did not help them to repel the invaders.
The Lions opened the scoring with two penalty goals by flyhalf Lionel Cronjé, which gave them a 6-0 lead after 10 minutes. The Russians then went on the attack and were right at the Lions' line when they were penalised for hands in at a ruck. Then flyhalf Sergei Yanyushkin broke and they went through phases only to be penalised again. (The penalty count in the match was 14-9 against them.)
Then they kicked. Anthony Volmink got the ball on the left wing, well inside his half and gave to Cronjé who gave to Willie Britz. The eighthman set off on a long run. He had lots of support and opted to play inside to Deon Helberg on his left and the sturdy wing scored near the posts. 13-0 after 22 minutes.
The Russians had not been kicking at goal but did so when Hendrik Roodt was penalised at a tackle and Klyuchnikov goaled. 13-3 after 38 minutes.
From the kick-off the Lions attacked and had a five-metre scrum. The Russians, being shunted, were penalised. The Lions set another scrum. The Russians were shunted again and were illegal again. The referee awarded a penalty try. 20-3 which was the half-time score.
There was the same sequence of scoring early in the second half - a penalty by Klyuchnikov for a tackle infringement and then a penalty try for illegally collapsing a five-metre scrum with the Lions shoving towards the goal-line. 27-6.
The Russians then broke the sequence with a clever try. Big centre Alexei Makovetskiy grubbered towards the Lions' line. Martin Bezuidenhout could not control the ball and the TMO's advice was that Makovetskiy had won the touchdown. Klyuchnikov converted from far out. 27-13 after 48 minutes.
The Lions increased their lead almost immediately. A penalty gave them a five metre line-out. They went wide and Roodt barged over from six metres. 34-13.
The Russians had a five-metre line-out from a penalty, mauled and lost a turnover.
The Lions had a five-metre line-out from a penalty, mauled and lost a turnover.
From a line-out further put the Lions attacked. Jacques van Rooyen charged and Warwick Tecklenburg burst over for a try at the posts. Marnitz Boshoff, making his debut for the Lions, converted. Boshoff got the next try when a great, snap pass by Stokkies Hanekom sent him over in the right corner. 46-13 after 71 minutes.
Despite the rain, the Lions were now running from behind their line, offloading in tight situations and ending the match with a brilliant team try. The Russians knocked on and 65 metres downfield the Lions scored. There were many passes till Ruhan Nel was in the clear and scored well after the final siren had sounded.
There was a bit of drama at the end as the referee referred to the TMO who reported that Klyuchnikov had tip-tackled Boshoff. He gave the Russian fullback a red card.
The Lions side was much changed from last year. Several players are playing elsewhere, some of them temporarily, and Cobus Grobbelaar has retired, but Derick Minnie is still there. But they played the same brand of rugby and their centres, Stokkies Hanekom and Harold Vorster, showed great [promise.
For the Lions:
Tries: Helberg, Roodt, Tecklenburg, Boshoff, Nel, Penalty Tries 2
Pens: Cronjé 2
Cons: Cronjé 4, Boshoff
Pens: Klyuchnikov 2
Russian Bears: 15 Igor Klyuchnikov, 14 Andrei Otrokov, 13 Yaroslav Rechnev, 12 Alexei Makovetskiy, 11 Mikhail Babaev, 10 Sergei Yanyushkin, 9 Alexander Yanyushkin, 8 Victor Gresev, 7 Artem Fatakhov, 6 Andrey Temnov, 5 Maxim Kiselev, 4 Alexander Voytov, 3 Innokentiy Zykov, 2 Valeriy Tsnobiladze, 1 Grigory Tsnobiladze
Replacements:16 Alexey Volkov, 17 Sergey Novoselov, 18 Evgeny Pronenko, 19 Pavel Kvernadze, 20 Pavel Butenko, 21 Alexei Shcherban, 22 Sergeu Sugrobov, 23 Igor Kurashov
Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Deon Helberg, 13 Stokkies Hanekom, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Lionel Cronje, 9 Michael Bondesio, 8 Willie Britz, 7 Derick Minnie, 6 Warwick Tecklenburg, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Hendrik Roodt, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Martin Bezuidenhout, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg (captain).
Replacements: 16 Francois du Toit, 17 Jacques van Rooyen, 18 Jacques Kotze, 19 Hugo Kloppers, 20 Claude Tshibidi, 21 Ross Cronje, 22 Marnitz Boshoff, 23 Ruhan Nel.
Referee: Lourens van der Merwe
Assistant referees: Eduan Nel, Pieter de Villiers
TMO: Johan Greeff