No8 Horn sets tone for Lions' big win
The growth spurt of the highly promising young Emirates Lions side continued at Emirates Airlines Park on Saturday as the hosts celebrated their return home from tour by running the Zebre ragged to score a 61-19 victory in a one-sided Vodacom United Rugby Championship clash.
The bookies had the Lions as 37-point winners or more and that is how it turned out as the Johannesburg team ran in nine tries to three.
They took control from the outset to propel themselves into a 12-0 lead after just nine minutes before running it up to 33-7 at halftime.
The Lions comfortably pocketed their try-scoring bonus point which was clinched after 29 minutes through a try from fullback Quan Horn.
The Lions No 15, like all his teammates, had a good game as he revelled in the opportunity to play a running game on a hot afternoon that would have further inhibited a visiting team already taken out of its comfort zone by playing at altitude.
However, it was his namesake Francke, the No 8, who was the real fulcrum of the platform that the Lions laid early on.
The 24-year-old product of Paarl Boys High, the breeding ground of so many great South African players, was in the top 20 when it came to individual all-round statistics in last year’s URC and is perhaps a bit underrated in a country that has a large reservoir of loose-forward talent.
He certainly doesn’t operate in anyone else’s shadow at his franchise though, and in the ninth minute he linked up with fullback Quan to create the Lions’ second try, which was dotted down by wing Edwill van der Merwe.
When you hear there was a kick that contributed to the score you’d expect it be Quan, but that would be wrong, as instead it was Francke who put in the grubber kick after the ball had been passed to him by Quan for Van der Merwe, who in the second half scored the try that took the Lions beyond the 50 mark, to successfully chase down in the left corner.
Seven minutes later it was Horn’s turn to score a try of his own as Zebre dropped a ball on attack and it was the Lions No 8 who was through to kick it ahead and then gather it himself to score at the other end of the field.
Sanele Nohamba’s conversion made it 19-0 and the Lions were scoring at more than a point a minute.
TRAINING-GROUND TRY STARTED THE ROUT
The rout had been started in the fifth minute when off the first penalty of the match the Lions set up an attacking lineout and then scored the kind of practice-ground try that Cardiff managed against the DHL Stormers at Cardiff Arms Park the night before.
For this try it was a long throw from PJ Botha to Marius Louw that created the space for former Zebres player Richard Kriel, playing on the wing, to exploit on the inside in scoring the first try of the match.
But back to the Horn contributions - he was instrumental in the fourth try, scored by Quan, too, as it was his strong run through three tackles that effectively initially breached the gainline for a score that was rounded off following a good buildup as the Lions effectively ran their young opponents ragged.
Zebre did capitalise on a rare period of indiscipline for the Lions, who conceded a string of penalties, by scoring through left wing Simone Gesi, a player who showed he has plenty of Sevens experience by stepping inside from his wing after receiving the pass to remove the Lions cover defenders as a factor.
However, that little bit of respite for Zebre was short lived as another Lions kick ahead put in Henco van Wyk and the Lions might also arguably feel a bit unlucky not to be awarded a sixth try on the stroke of halftime as the call of held up against prop Asenathi Ntlabakanye when he drove over the line looked marginal on the television evidence.
ZEBRE FOUGHT HARD
Zebre fought hard and did do what they needed to do by scoring first in the second half by getting another try for Gesi, and in the first seven minutes of the half the Lions made almost as many mistakes as they’d made in the entire first half.
They scored another through replacement back Jacopo Trulla later on but wasn’t before another Henco van Wyk score re-established the order of proceedings and then after that Morne van den Berg was on hand to take a pass from Van der Merwe after more good work from Quan Horn as the Lions ran out comfortable victors.
The five points they earned from their day out in the sun will give them a significant boost on the table with a third of the league phase of the URC now done and dusted.
The seal on their victory was provided by a conversion from in front of the posts of their ninth try from the replacement lock, the ‘Bone Collector’ Willem Alberts.
Several features of the Lions’ good challenge in what were generally losing causes overseas were again in prominence, including scrumhalf Morne van den Berg’s accurate box kicking game, Nohamba’s tactical nous and passing game at flyhalf, the hard working forwards and the pace of Van der Merwe as well as his willingness to seek work out wide.
But it was No 8 Horn who set the tone for the Lions’ great day at the office on their return to headquarters.
Emirates Lions 61 - Tries: Richard Kriel, Edwill van der Merwe 2, Francke Horn, Quan Horn, Henco van Wyk 2, Morne van den Berg and Immanuel Tshituka; Conversions: Sanele Nohamba 7 and Willem Alberts;
Zebre 19 - Tries: Simone Gesi 2 and Jacopo Trulla; Conversions: Giovanni Montemauri 2.