Lions overcome Force(ful) resistance
SUPER RUGBY REPORT: The Lions showed character to overcome a determined Western Force, winning 24-15 in Perth on Saturday.
The Lions were frustrated by a combination of the Force's energetic defensive display and the referee's puzzling rulings.
However, they will leave Perth with a full-house five points and their position on the top four of the competition well-and-truly cemented.
The Lions went into the match with an imposing record of seven wins and just one loss this season and were short-priced favourites against the struggling Force, but the game was in the balance until the dying minutes.
The visitors ran in the only three tries of the match.
However, the match was still in the balance heading into the final minute, with the Lions adding their final try following a scrum after the final hooter.
Elton Jantjies cut through the Force defence with pace to snare a potentially important bonus point and get their Australian tour off to an ideal start.
Lions captain Warren Whiteley said it was a hard-fought win.
"Credit to the Force, they played extremely well and defended like trojans," he said.
"Elton stepped up and got us that bonus point and that could be crucial."
Force skipper Matt Hodgson said his side left everything on the field, but made some costly mistakes.
"We just weren't clinical enough around the breakdown and in the set pieces," he said.
"The effort was there."
The boot of Ian Prior kept the Force in the match, kicking five penalties for the team which is expected to be cut from the competition at the end of the season.
The Force have only two wins from eight matches, but showed plenty of defensive grit to stay in the match against the classier Lions outfit.
It wasn't a match of brilliant individual highlights and the visitors set up their win with two first-half tries.
Lionel Mapoe dived over next to the posts in the seventh minute after some sloppy Force defence.
In the 36th minute the Lions opened up a 14-6 lead when some crisp and speedy passing ended with Courtnall Skosan racing down the sideline for their second try.
Man of the match: Matt Hodgson lead the way with the defensive energy showed by a willing Western Force team. Hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau was just as energetic, but more reckless. The Lions' forwards - captain Warren Whiteley, flank Albertus Smith, locks Franco Mostert and Andries Ferreira, and most of all hooker Malcolm Marx - put in the hard yards. However, the most important play of the match came from a cool, calm and collected Lions flyhalf Elton Jantjies - who scored the bonus-point try with a neat show-and-go deep into injury time. He gets our award.
For the Western Force:
Pens: Prior 4
For the Lions:
Tries: Mapoe, Skosan, Jantjies
Cons: Jantjies 2
Western Force: 15 Marcel Brache, 14 James Verity-Amm, 13 Curtis Rona, 12 Bill Meakes, 11 Alex Newsome, 10 Luke Burton, 9 Ian Prior, 8 Isi Naisarani, 7 Matt Hodgson (captain), 6 Brynard Stander, 5 Ross Haylett-Petty, 4 Lewis Carmichael, 3 Tetera Faulkner, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Pek Cowan.
Replacements: 16 Heath Tessmann, 17 Ben Daley, 18 Shambeckler Vui, 19 Onehunga Havilli, 20 Richard Hardwick, 21 Mitch Short, 22 Jono Lance, 23 Peter Grant.
Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Sylvian Mahuza, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Francois de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Ruan Ackermann, 6 Albertus Smith, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Jacques van Rooyen.
Replacements: 16 Robbie Coetzee, 17 Corne Fourie, 18 Johannes Jonker, 19 Lourens Erasmus, 20 Cyle Brink, 21 Dillon Smit, 22 Jacques Nel, 23 Anthony Volmink.
Referee: Mike Fraser (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Jamie Nutbrown (New Zealand), Amy Perrett (Australia)
TMO: Damien Mitchelmore (Australia)