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Blues fall short at Ellis Park

Sat, 15 Mar 2014 14:49
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A back-and-forth thriller
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Despite being outscored by five tries to three, the Lions held on for a 39-36 victory over the Blues at Ellis Park on Saturday.

It was a thriller, a back-and-forth thriller as both sides sought chances to attack. It ended with the Blues scoring five tries to three and losing. a match which they threatened to win easily.

For the first 20 minutes they swamped the Lions but scored no points. In the late 20 minutes, they scored five tries and threatene to overwhelm the Lions who ended with their noses just three points above water. Both sides contributed to this thriller.

The Blues were in two respects their own worst enemies - iffy handling and two yellow cards. During the first yellow card the Lions scored 17 points. The Blues' line-outs were dubious - three lost and one skew and they conceded turnovers. Their scrumming was a mess.

That means that the Lions forwards did well, nowhere better than in the scrums. The Lions had a front row that had played 15 Super Rugby matches - in total, not each. The Blues'; front row had 172 Super Rugby caps and 124 Tests amongst them. But the Lions really did destroy their scrum. One up for the rookies, and it counted in the long run. As a  result of the Lions dominance, the scrums were a mess. The first three scrums produced three penalties. The 13 scrums in the match produced eight  penalties, six against the Blues.

The Blues, in white, started like a house on fire. At the and of 20 minutes they had dominated possession and territory. They had 11 line-out throws to one, three scrums to one and three penalties to two.

All the Lions did was defend and in this regard they were unrecognisable from the Lions of old, for they tackled. At one stage the Blues went through 10 phases without threatening to score, The Lions actually had two chances to score - when Faf de Klerk footed through a dropped ball, got it back but knocked on when tackled. And, mirabile narratu, Boshoff missed a kickable penalty - his last miss of the afternoon.

The Lions got the ball rolling when they had a line-out and shunted a maul ahead. Charles Faumuina was penalised and the Lions kicked out for a five-metre line-out. Faumuina again infringed close to his line and was sent off to the sin bin. The Lions had another five-metre line-out and got over the line but were held up. That gave them a five-metre scrum. The Blues were penalised and the Lions opted for another scrum. They bashed at the line and the ball came back to De Klerk who looked up, threw a short dummy and darted over for a try. 7-0 after 34 minutes.

That was probably De Klerk's best passage of play in the match for we was too seldom in place to play scrum half with sundry players doing his job.

The Lions attacked again and from 45 metres out Boshoff kicked a soaring drop which had enough power for 20 metres more. 10-0 after 34 minutes.

JW Jonker flykicked a loose ball a long way down field where Chris Noakes fell back and onto the ball. Two Lions caught him and he held on. Noakes was penalised and there was a simple three points on offer to Boshoff's right boot but Warren Whiteley tapped and the Lions went left where Coenie van Wyk, who had a joyous game, did a scissors with Courtnall Skosan and the 23-year-old wing from Brackenfell  swept past to two defenders for a try near the posts. 17-0, which was the half-time score.

The momentum had certainly shifted in each half of the first half.

The first half of the second half also belonged to the Lions. Boshoff kicked a drop and a penalty to a Noakes penalty and the Lions led 23-3 after 51 minutes. At this time Tom Donnelly was in the sin bin for two shoulder charges at tackles in close succession. This time there was no 17-point reward for the Lions, for the fightback of the Blues got under way.

The Blues went through many phases, with Faumuina close to scoring, and a long Noakes pass reached Charles Piutau who scored in the left corner. 23-8 after 55 minutes.

Any comfort the Lions could take from the score was immediately dispelled. They kicked off and the next time they got the ball was to kick-off again. The ball went left to Frank Halai who grubbered and got to the ball first. He gave inside to debutant Jordan Manihera who gave further inside to Bryn Hall who had an easy run-in for the try. This time Noakes converted. 23-15 in 57 minutes.

Hall had come on as a substitute for Piri Weepu and his speed of action made a big difference to the Blues, lifting the tempo of their game.

Then the Lions got lucky. It started with a counterattack by Boshoff who beat Benji Marshall and set up a counterattack. Skosan raced down the left and gave inside to Jaco Kriel who gave to Whiteley. The captain looked about to score in the left corner but instead gave inside to Deon van Rensburg. From behind Piutau tacked Van Rensburg and the ball rolled loose in in-goal where Coenie van Wyk fell on it.

There was a long consultation with the TMO. In the end it was found that there was no evidence that Whiteley's pass had been forward and it was agreed that Piutau had knocked the ball from Van Rensburg's grasp and so a try was awarded to Van Wyk. 30-15 with 21 minutes to play.

Regulation passing down the backline with Marshall in it gave Halai and overlap. He bumped off Skosan and scored a try. 30-22 with 15 minutes to play.

The excitement rose tighter and tighter.

Boshoff kicked a penalty. 33-22 with 13 minutes to play.

From a ruck at the kick-off  Ross Cronje lofted a poor kick. Skosan knocked it infield but to the Blues who went wide left. From a five-metre scrum they bashed and then went right where George Moala ran clean through Skosan to score. Simon Hickey converted. 33-29 with 8 minutes to play.

Corné Fourie charged straight ahead and Van Wyk kicked a perfect diagonal to the right wing where Ruan Combrinck had only to catch it to fall down and score. He knocked it on.

Then in the space of two minutes Boshoff kicked two penalties. 39-29 with 3 minutes to play.

Before the match much had been made of Benji Marshall. He had been around in the match but with little effect. Perhaps the Lions were lulled into a sense of security for suddenly Marshall ran straight at the line. He beat three en route and two more as he stretched over to score next to the posts. Hickey hurried the conversion. 39-36 with 15 seconds to play.

The Lions kicked off and the Blues kept the ball. The Lions were penalised and the Blues tapped and kept the ball but the Lions forced them back and the match ended when the Blues were forced back over their dead-ball line.

Man of the Match: Of the Blues there were Frank Halai, Steven Luatua and Luke Braid. Of the Lions there were Coenie van Wyk, Deon van Rensburg, Franco van der Merwe and Warren Whitely, but our man of the match is a conglomerate - the six players who made up the Lions' front row -hookers Robbie Coetzee and Willie Wepener and props  Julian Redelinghuys, Schalk van der Merwe., Corné Fourie and Ruan Dreyer.

The scorers:

For the Lions:
Tries
: De Klerk, Skosan, Watermeyer
Cons: Boshoff 3
Pens: Boshoff 4
DG: Boshoff 2

For the Blues:
Tries:
Piutau, Hall, Halai, Moala, Marshall
Cons: Noakes 2, Hickey 2
Pen: Noakes

Yellow card: Charlie Faumuina (Blues, 31 - deliberate infringement), Tom Donnelly (Blues, 43 - foul play)

Teams:

Lions:
15 Coenie van Wyk, 14 JW Jonker, 13 Deon van Rensburg, 12 Stefan Watermeyer, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Marnitz Boshoff, 9 Francois de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley (captain), 7 Willie Britz, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Franco Mostert, 3 Julian Redelinghuys, 2 Robbie Coetzee, 1 Schalk van der Merwe.
Replacements: 16 Willie Wepener, 17 Corne Fourie, 18 Ruan Dreyer, 19 Luvuyiso Lusaseni, 20 Warwick Tecklenburg, 21 Ross Cronje, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 Ruan Combrinck.

Blues: 15 Benji Marshall, 14 Frank Halai, 13 George Moala, 12 Pita Ahki, 11 Charles Piutau, 10 Chris Noakes, 9 Piri Weepu , 8 Steven Luatua, 7 Luke Braid (captain), 6 Brendon O'Connor, 5 Tom Donnelly, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 James Parsons, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Tom McCartney, 17 Sam Prattley, 18, Angus Ta'avao, 19 Liaki Moli, 20 Jordan Manihera, 21 Bryn Hall, 22 Simon Hickey, 23 Jackson Willison.

Referee: Stuart Berry (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Christie du Preez (South Africa), Francois de Bruin (South Africa)
TMO: Johan Greeff (South Africa)

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