Second-half try blitz keeps 14-man Lions alive

rugby18 May 2024 16:13| © SuperSport
By:Gavin Rich

It looked like the Emirates Lions’ challenge in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship was going to be drowned by a flood of cards but the hosts produced a second-half scoring blitz that secured them an emphatic 44-21 win over Glasgow Warriors in Johannesburg on Saturday.

When Ruan Venter was red-carded after a clash of heads late in the first half, which was his second card after he’d received a yellow earlier, and then Francke Horn was yellow-carded a few minutes later, it looked like the Lions’ race for a top-eight spot was done.

But just to prove lightning can strike in the same place twice, the Lions did what they did against Connacht in Galway - they triumphed despite it being 14 playing against 15 for more than half the match.

Glasgow, the log leaders going into this game, trailed by one point at halftime, 8-7, and looked like they might finally be taking control when they scored seven minutes into the second half to regain the lead they had earlier surrendered to a great Lions try.

It didn’t go according to script though, with the Lions striking back immediately as they spectacularly turned defence into attack as what looked like it might become a Glasgow try turned into a try on the other end of the field for Lions wing Edwill van der Merwe.


Sanele Nohamba had by that time come onto the field as the flyhalf replacement and it was his conversion that pushed the Lions back into a solitary point lead at 15-14. That was after 52 minutes, but things happened quickly from there as a one-point lead was turned into a 36-14 lead by just beyond the hour mark as a Nohamba intercept try completed a four-try blitz in the space of nine minutes to completely change the game.

The Lions’ excellent transition from defence to attack was writ large in all the tries, with Eric Cronje, the centre, featuring prominently in all of them, as did JC Pretorius, who was on hand to take Cronje’s pass for the bonus-point try.

The bonus-point win propels the Lions into a position where they have a chance to get into the top eight if they beat the DHL Stormers in their final league match two weeks from now. Glasgow’s top spot on the log is now under serious threat.

The Lions didn’t start with their published team. Their captain Marius Louw was ruled out when he failed a late fitness test and Jordan Hendrikse, normally a flyhalf, came into the side as the replacement inside centre with Willem Alberts assuming the captaincy.


The game got off to a frenetic start, with both teams playing with a high tempo. Initially, it looked like Glasgow were dictating it, which actually might have come back to bite them later as they looked like they ran out of puff, but it was the Lions who had the first opportunity to put points on the board. Gianni Lombard made a hash of what should have been a regulation three-pointer as the clock ticked over into the second minute of the game.

Lombard got another opportunity a few minutes later, this time from further out, and again he pushed it wide as the Lions found themselves frustratingly still rooted to zero on the scoreboard. That meant that when Kyle Rowe ran onto a Goerge Horn grubber as the visitors properly pierced the good Lions defensive system for the first time, it was the Glaswegians who took the lead, with Horn’s conversion making it 7-0 after 12 minutes.

It was a double whammy for the Lions though, for that was when Venter saw his first card. If anything, it was for a less forgivable indiscretion than the one that got him red-carded later. The red was for one of those modern rugby collision incidents that come about through poor positioning and awkward execution in a split second, but the yellow card came about because of an off-the-ball scuffle that ended with Venter pushing his opponent’s head into the ground.


It was poor from the reserve flanker, and it meant the Lions were down to 14 men for the next 10 minutes. In that time they did well, not conceding any points, and they dominated possession (56 per cent) and territory (66 per cent) up to the half-hour mark.

Hendrikse drew three points back for the home team with a successful penalty in the 26th minute as he took over the place-kicking duties and then came a classic outside centre break from Eric Cronje that set it up for wing Rabs Maxwane to run 30 metres to score in the corner.

Hendrikse missed the conversion but it was the home team in front 8-7 and that was how it stayed until halftime, with Rowe held up only just in his quest for a second try as Glasgow produced plenty of endeavour but no points.

The final few minutes of the half were telling though as first the Lions saw Venter red-carded - it would have been red anyway if he’d been shown a second yellow but was a straight red - in the 36th minute and then two minutes later No 8 Francke Horn was pinged for a tap down as Glasgow attacked close to the line.

Somehow the Lions escaped conceding points but with the second half set to start with them down to 13 men for the initial nine minutes, they faced a massive uphill battle if they wanted to hit the target by netting the full house of log points, they needed to maintain a serious challenge for a top-eight finish.

As it turned out, Glasgow scored only once when the Lions were down to 13 men, but it was another flash of Lions indiscipline that let them down. This time it was a turned-over penalty because of a late tackle, with the penalty leading to the field position that led to the Glasgow second try to flanker Euan Ferrie.

At that point, the headline read “Lions season drowned by cards”. But strange things happen sometimes in sport, and this was one of those days.


Emirates Lions 44 - Tries: Rabs Maxwane 2, Edwill van der Merwe, JC Pretorius, Sanele Nohamba and Hanru Sirgel; Conversions: Sanele Nohamba 5; Penalties: Jordan Hendrikse and Sanele Nohamba.

Glasgow Warriors 21 - Tries: Kyle Rowe, Euan Ferrie and Josch McKay; Conversions: George Horn 2 and Duncan Weir.