It might have been the battle for the bottom of the table played between the two sides with the lowest try scoring rates, but right from the kick off, both teams showed clear intent to attack. Sadly, you need more than intent, but we should give them points for trying… Right?
In a refreshing change for Reds fans everywhere the home side looked mostly a different team to the one that they were used to watching. It’s amazing the difference having a flyhalf makes. The addition of Cooper, Kerevi, O’Connor and Turner into the backline made a world of difference to how the attack looked. Runners coming from depth, with varying lines giving Quade options. Fantastic!
That being said, the game was a constant procession of missed chances and average execution from both teams. Continuity of possession was poor with sloppy handling and poor passing cruelling more than a few solid chances. When it clicked though, both the Reds and the Lions showed that they can be very dangerous. Quade Cooper linking up with Kerevi and O’Connor caused headaches for the Lions defence and for the Lions the inside centre Vorster was excellent on both attack and defence.
The Reds opened the scoring with a penalty to Cooper in the 11th minute. The Reds hot on attack at the time, kicking for the corner must have been tempting but in the end the lure of having points on the board proved too much.
The Lions hit back immediately with a great try to Vorster after the Reds scrambling defence couldn’t realign quickly enough leaving miles of space out wide for the inside centre. The conversion was missed. Jantjies kicked a penalty just before half time to make the score 3-8 at the break.
The home team came out after the break with a renewed vigour and were looking very dangerous but from a knock on while on attack just outside the 22, the Lions won the ball and kicked long finding touch 5m out from the Reds line. The Reds butchered the lineout and Lions #7 Tecklenburg crashed over near the sticks.
The Reds hit back almost straight away with a penalty try from a very impressive scrum and were also next to score after that through Kerevi to take the lead with 12 minutes to go however at the seventieth minute they gave away a fairly silly penalty and with it the lead.
The Lions weren’t just content to sit back and close the game out and the Reds were chasing the win so the last 10 minutes made for some pretty exciting Rugby. While it always disappoints me when a team tries to win a game with a field goal, it probably wasn’t surprising that the Reds didn’t have the confidence in their structures and systems to hold onto the ball in the Lions 22 and and be able to come away with the points and the game. They had the overwhelming majority of territory (58%) and possession (61%) and were still behind at full time so the field goal probably looked the best option. Unfortunately the execution was not great and the kick was easily charged down, giving the Lions their most successful Australasian tour result ever with 3 wins from 4.
The Game Changer
Watching the game, as soon as Tecklenburg crashed over I thought, there’s my game changer. When the Reds were awarded their penalty try a couple of minutes later I thought again.
At the end of the game though, the game changer was obvious to me. Although it didn’t win them the game, the impact the Reds bench had when the bulk of it came on at around 45-55 mins was huge. For a few short minutes, my preferred starting XV were all on the park in their chosen position, and we looked good.
The G&GR MOTM
This was tricky. Plenty of the Reds played well individually but you couldn’t give a MotM to anyone in Red tonight. The Lions ground out their win on team work but also defence. A huge part of that defence was Warwick Tecklenburg. 14 tackles with only 1 missed, 28 run metres, 1 clean break, 2 defenders beaten and a meat pie. What a game!
I like Kerevi as a long term option in gold. He has plenty to work on first but with ball in hand his appeal is fairly undeniable. Also, if you can get past his age, in the forwards Greg Holmes was excellent when he came on. His impact in the scrum was immediate and he was handy around the park too. He’d be my sentimental favourite to get a recall into the national squad.
Score & Scorers
Tries: 2 (Penalty Try, Kerevi)
Conversions: Cooper (2/2)
Penalties: Cooper (1/2)
Dropped Goals: Cooper (0/1)
Tries: 2 (Vorster, Tecklenburg)
Conversions: Jantjies (1/2)
Penalties: Jantjies (2/2)
Cards & citings
Lions: Cornbrinck – Yellow card (’51-’61)