Lions maul lackluster Leinster

Lions maul lackluster Leinster

There have been times that the Emirates Lions have failed to use their home conditions, but not this time, as they exploded out of the blocks with their tempo game to lay the platform for a comprehensive and important 44-12 win over Leinster at Emirates Airlines Park on Saturday.

By picking up the win plus a four-try bonus point, the Lions powered into the top eight positions on the Vodacom United Rugby Championship log that will give them their first-ever playoff spot in this competition plus entry into next season’s Investec Champions Cup if they can hold onto it.

Leinster have been left vulnerable to the attentions of the Glasgow Warriors and the Vodacom Bulls, who are chasing them in the race for top seeding going into the Finals Series in June.

The Lions started the weekend 10th on the log and Leinster were in pole position, so the hosts weren’t given much chance by many critics. But that was before Leinster made 13 changes to the side that thrashed La Rochelle in Dublin in their Investec Champions Cup quarterfinal last weekend, with Ciaran Frawley and Jason Jenkins being the only starting team survivors from that triumph.


The second-string Leinster combination is still a strong side, and the Lions’ win was a great achievement for them, but perhaps the changed-up Leinster team had too many players who haven’t played in the past few weeks. They certainly looked lethargic at the start, while the Lions were buzzing as they sought to make the altitude and 30-degree heat count in their favour.

They won the ball back from the kick-off. Richard Kriel took an outside break and he had the pacy flanker JC Pretorius ranging up alongside him before he transferred inside for scrumhalf Morne van den Berg to score the first try of the game with just 42 seconds gone.

Leinster looked shell-shocked, and it got worse for them when the Lions forced a scrum penalty in front of the posts and Sanele Nohamba added a three-pointer to his earlier conversion to make it 10-0.

That was in the sixth minute so the Lions were going at significantly better than a point-a-minute and they accelerated that scoring rate further four minutes later when a counter-attack from their own half saw Pretorius again range up in the wide channel, with fellow loose-forward Francke Horn up with him, before the ball was transferred inside to Van den Berg who put Lions skipper Marius Louw in for his team’s second try next to the posts.

Nohamba made a hash of what should have been a regulation conversion for him but he made up for it with the intercept that put Quan Horn in for the Lions’ third try and an astounding 22-0 lead after just 13 minutes.

Up to that point, and up to near the half-hour mark, the Lions were clinical and almost everything was going for them, but the last part of the half saw Leinster find their game legs and stabilise. The Lions weren’t helped by some poor lineout work, and Leinster dominated possession in the third quarter, enjoying 74 per cent of the ball and most of the territory in the last 10 minutes of the half.


That cued the other area where the Lions were good on the day, former Bok centre Jaque Fourie’s defensive system. Leinster were camped in their territory and their attacks came wave after wave, and on one occasion the TMO had to be called in as Leinster were held up what could only have been millimetres short of the posts.

The Lions did well to survive the onslaught and keep Leinster scoreless in the first half, with the Lions taking a healthy 22-0 lead into halftime. It was important for Leinster to be the first to score in the second half and they looked to have done that when the Lions finally slipped two tackles and replacement Cormac Foley went over in the right corner.

However, that 43rd-minute score was correctly cancelled out when the TMO established there had been a forward pass and instead it was the Lions who scored next as Nohamba kicked a long-range penalty in the 50th minute that gave his team a 25-0 lead.

Leinster finally got onto the board when fullback Frawley ran onto a kick through from flyhalf Harry Byrne in the 53rd minute, but the fightback was stunted by an almost immediate response from the Lions. Van den Berg cleverly kicked into the vacant space, with Kriel running onto the ball and then transferring to Emmanuel Tshituka to score when he was held up by a desperate cover tackle.

Nohamba fluffed his second conversion attempt of the afternoon but at 30-7 up and the game going into the last quarter, it looked like the Lions had pretty much secured the win, although Frawley scored his team’s second try to make it 30-12 with 16 minutes to go.

Leinster tried hard to repeat their comeback at the same ground last year but were thwarted by the Lions’ defence and ability to turn their possession over at crucial stages and the Lions set the seal on their fine win when Tshituka completed his brace with three minutes to go and then Francke Horn joined him on the scoresheet off the final play of the game.


Emirates Lions 44 - Tries:: Morne van den Berg, Marius Louw, Quan Horn, Emmanuel Tshituka 2 and Francke Horn; Conversions: Sanele Nohamba 2 and Jordan Hendrikse 2; Penalties: Sanele Nohamba 2.

Leinster 12 - Tries: Ciaran Frawley 2; Conversion: Harry Byrne.

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