A late try has stolen victory away from the St.George Queensland Reds in the Asteron Life Super Rugby clash played against the Lions in Johannesburg early Sunday morning (EST).
The Reds, who were reduced to 13 players for the final 10 minutes, were holding on to a well-earned 20-16 lead before a try to the Lions three minutes from the siren saw them edged out. The Reds had led 20-6 at halftime.
All the Reds’ 20-points were scored by flyhalf Quade Cooper, in a performance that almost secured a precious win in South Africa against the bouyant Lions.
Reds head coach Richard Graham said the team would need to bounce back from the disappointing result.
“At 20-6 at half time I thought we had positioned ourselves well to go on with the game,” Graham said.
“However, we were on the wrong end of the penalty count, at 19-4, and the two yellow cards hurt us.”
“I thought we showed a tremendous amount of character when defending our line, but I am frustrated with the result.”
“We’re looking forward to returning home to our Fortress, Suncorp Stadium for a run of three home games. It has been a tough start to the season, with four of our first five games on the road, so it will be good to get back to Brisbane and focus on the Stormers.”
It was a warm 25 degrees at Ellis Park Stadium with almost no wind as the Reds ran out.
Both teams kept the ball in hand in the first few minutes and the Reds did well to maintain possession under pressure in the Lions half, eventually earning a penalty which Cooper landed to put Queensland up 3-0 after three minutes.
Cooper then set up and scored the Reds’ first try just two minutes later. First up the flyhalf made a bone crunching tackle on Deon vans Rensburg to snuff out a dangerous Lions attack.
The ball came loose and Ben Tapuai toed it ahead and re-gathered before popping the ball up to Cooper in support who raced over to score. Cooper then slotted the conversion and it was the Reds up 10-0 after just seven minutes.
Great work from a lineout just a minute later by James Horwill saw the Reds pour on to 4the attack again and Aidan Toua slipped a tackle, but just when it looked like he would put the Reds further ahead the young fullback was felled by an ankle tap.
Marnitz Boshoff landed a penalty from a scrum to bring the Lions back to 10-3 on 14 minutes as Dom Shipperley came on for Toua, who had not recovered from the earlier tackle. Lachie Turner moved to fullback with Shipperley on the left wing.
Shipperley’s first touch saw him dive over the line after good lead up work from Liam Gill and Cooper again but the try was called back for a knock-on ruled against Horwill.
But the Lions had played the ball in the ruck to force the knock-on and Cooper landed the easy penalty to take the Reds out to 13-3 after 15 minutes.
Some superb defence from Tapuai then stopped a dangerous raid from the Lions. First he pulled down van Rensburg in a great covering tackle and then he got to his feet quickly to earn the relieving penalty.
The Reds jumped out to a 20-3 lead 30 minutes in after a second try to Cooper.
The move started in the Reds half as good defence from the pack disrupted a Lions drive. A clever kick from Will Genia then saw the Reds win a lineout on the Lions 22.
Quick ruck ball saw Tapuai, Gill and Greg Holmes take the ball forward until Genia found Cooper from a ruck close to the line and the flyhalf bamboozled the Lions defence to go over untouched for his second try, under the posts.
The Reds then had to hold off a barrage of Lions’ scrums close to their line as half time ticked over. Eventually a second penalty goal to Boshoff was conceded but Queensland did well not concede more points and held on to a 20-6 lead at half time.
Cooper continued his magic at the start of the second half as he angled a kick to land metres out from the Lions try line. Saia Fainga’a then did well to charge down the clearing kick as Queensland set up camp in Lions territory.
The Lions then launched a sustained attack but again superb defence from the Reds held them out with the prominent James Slipper and Gill working well to win a turnover.
Ed Quirk then won a lineout against the throw as Queensland continued to frustrate the home team.
A Boshoff penalty brought the score back to 20-9 after 52 minutes and from the kick off a break from scrumhalf Faf de Klerk put the Lions on attack again. But again great work from Slipper, this time at the back of the lineout, diffused a dangerous situation.
James Hanson, on for Saia Fainga’a, then did well to win another penalty with the Lions again deep on attack. Jono Owen, on for Greg Holmes, also did well at a breakdown soon after and contributed a hefty shove as the Reds pack won a tight-head.
On 65 minutes the Reds defence finally cracked. A strong driving maul from the Lions was stopped just a metre short but the ball came wide to Lionel Mapoe who forced his way over. Boshoff converted to bring it back to 20-16 with 15 minutes left.
The Reds almost increased their lead on 68 minutes as Gill, Cooper and substitute Beau Robinson worked Queensland close but the Lions held on and launched their own counter attack.
Hanson seemed to have won the ball on his feet at a breakdown soon afterwards but referee Stuart Berry found an offence and sent the reserve hooker to the sin bin.
The Lions threw everything at the Reds in a final desperate effort and Queensland went down to 13-men as No.8 Jake Schatz was yellow carded after a breakdown close to the Reds’ line.
The outnumbered Reds packs somehow held firm from repeated scrums close to their line. The Lions were awarded another penalty and this time, in a show of respect for the Reds’ pack, kicked for touch.
From the lineout, Lions drove a maul towards the line. Again the Reds held on but the ball was swung quickly back to the blind where winger Courtnall Skosan dove towards the line between Horwill and Genia.
The decision went to the TMO who found that Skosan had got the ball over the line. Boshoff’s conversion gave the Lions a 23-20 lead.
The Reds attacked valiantly in the final minutes but the exhausted 13-men on the field couldn’t find a late miracle.
Queensland now return home where they will face the Stormers at 7.40pm EST next Saturday night at Suncorp Stadium.
Full Time Result
REDS 20 (Quade Cooper 2 tries; Cooper 2 conversions, 2 penalties) defeated by LIONS 23 (Lionel Mapoe, Courtnall Boshoff tries; Marnitz Boshoff 3 penalties, 2 conversions) at Ellis Park Stadium in Johannesburg. (Half time: Reds 20 Lions 6) (Referee: Stuart Berry [RSA]).
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