Lions scrape through in Perth

In a match that resembled more a World Cup final than a Super 14 match, the Lions edged out a one point victory over the Force 25 -24. This is the Lions first victory ever in Australia.

It was a see-saw battle in Perth, with both sides eventually playing for territory in a bid to gain the penalty. In the end, it was the Lions who ran out deserved victors after taking more of their opportunities.

The Lions once again demonstrated an ability to win a match that could have gone either way, with the lead swapping four times in the final quarter, until eventually the Lions managed to hold onto a lead garnered by a last minute penalty by returning Lions star, Andre Pretorius.

The Force began the match well, taking the ball wide and creating many opportunities as their venomous outside backs stretched the Lions defence to breaking point.

They were allowed to do this because of the uncharacteristic weakness of the Lions pack, where tighthead Bertus Smit struggled against Gareth Hardy of the Force, whilst Ethienne Reynecke was inaccurate at the lineout. The Lions clearly missed the presence of the towering Cobus Grobler.

The Force managed to score two tries in the first period, but they could have had more, were it not for their shocking handling out wide, where players such as Ryan Cross and Junior Pelesasa, despite being incisive, were unable to finish off key passes.

The Force also struggle, with the exception of Nathan Sharpe, who pops up everywhere for his side, to dovetail the the forwards and the backs in attack.

All too often does the backline play behind their pack. They don’t lose the ball, but they don’t go forwards either.

Meanwhile the Lions gained a lead in the first quarter by taking points each and every time they entered the Force’s half. Critics may argue that the Lions were static on attack. At times they were, but most of the time, they managed to secure points without having to take it through the phases.

Louis Strydom was impressive on attack – he has a real sense of space, but he lacks the confidence to burst into the gap and offload to an oncoming centre or loose forward.

He knocked over two early penalties, one of which was matched by Cameron Shepherd, before the Lions won a turnover, whipped it wide, and a grubber from Jaco Pretorius was deflected into the hands of Jaque Fourie by Drew Mitchell. Fourie sauntered in under the posts.

But the attack of the Force then appeared onimous. They capitalized on a lack of Lions domination upfront as well as some wayward kicking to score their two tries in the first half.

Ryan Cross sucked in two defenders and then sent the ball wide to Cameron Shepherd for the first, whilst Mitchell threw a dummy off a return from a wayward clearance and set up an attack that culminated in a Gareth Hardy try.

But the Lions stayed in touch by taking the points everytime they wandered upfield.

The match was, as they say, a game of two halves.

The Lions brought on their big guns in the front row – Willie Wepener and Heinke van der Merwe, and they steadied the scrum. Jacques Cronje also made his first appearance for the Lions, showing signs of an imminent return to the form of his early career.

The Lions were able to play more in the Force’s half, and, as the first half, they continuously knocked over the penalties, as referee Bryce Lawrence just blew his whistle haphazardly at anything that caught his attention. It is referees like Lawrence that make rugby inexplicable for the casual fan. At the ruck, it was unknowable who will be penalized next.

Jaque Fourie was impressive as he made metres upfield whenever he had the opportunity, taking his side into the strike zone.

On one of these Mat Henjak was sin-binned for deliberate offsides as Jano Vermaak took a quick penalty. The Force then suffered as Mat Giteau, assuming the scrum-half duties

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