Coach Ackermann left speechless after Lions victory

Lions coach Johann Ackermann was left speechless after his side came from behind
to beat the Reds 23-20 in their Super Rugby clash at Ellis Park in Johannesburg
on Saturday.

“What makes this one (victory) special is the fight and the comeback,
the composure the guys showed,” Ackermann said after the match.

The hosts were outplayed in the first half with Reds flyhalf Quade Cooper in
mesmerising form as he score all of his side’s points in the opening 40 minutes.

Cooper scored two converted tries and added two more penalties to give his
side a comfortable 20-6 lead going into the break.

The match would, however, not only be remembered for the Lions’ spirited fightback
but also for the influence referee Stuart Berry had in the match.

The Reds were on the wrong side of his whistle as they were severely penalised
in the second half.

The result left Reds coach Richard Graham frustrated after his side seemed
to have the upperhand.

“The penalty count was 19-4 against us, I don’t think I’ve ever been involved
in a game where the penalty count has been like that,” Graham said.

”Certainly we will be speaking to Lyndon Bray, the referees boss to get clarification.”

“It was extremely frustrating, at 20-3 we were certainly good enough and
we should have gone on with it but with that penalty count against you it makes
it extremely difficult.”

The game completely swung in the Lions’ favour 10 minutes from time when James
Hanson was shown a yellow card in the 70th minute before Jake Schatz joined
him in the sin-bin four minutes later.

With the hosts enjoying a clear advantage Lions wing Courtnall Skosan scored
a converted try to see his side take a three-point lead for the victory.

“We are certainly frustrated by a 19-4 penalty count and the yellow cards
that come at the back of it,” Graham said.

The Lions would nevertheless be more than satisfied with what they have achieved
since their return to Super Rugby as they go into their first bye of the season
after six weeks of non-stop action.

The Johannesburg side boasts with four victories from six matches and are sitting
pretty in second place in the South African conference, three points adrift
of overall log-leaders, the Sharks.

While there may be some questions over the officiating, the Lions’ character
was not in dispute.

Seven minutes into the encounter Lions stalwart Franco van der Merwe left the
field injured and he was replaced by MB Lusaseni, who held his own along with
lock partner Franco Mostert.

“Franco (Mostert) and MB had to show character after we lost our most
experienced player and only Springbok,” Ackermann said.

“All 23 players were willing to take responsibility, especially the forwards
that are not used to playing with out Franco (Van der Merwe).”

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