Slow start costs Rebels dearly
Sunday July 8, 2012
A poor start and a late Lions try has cost the Melbourne Rebels dearly as they went down 37-32 at Coca-Cola Park in Johannesburg, denying them their first ever win on foreign soil.
The Lions raced out to a 24-0 lead late in the first-half and it looked like the Rebels might be on the end of a hiding, but a try on the stroke of half-time by hooker Ged Robinson gave his team the confidence to make a sensational second-half comeback.
However it wasn’t to be in the end and captain Stirling Mortlock, while happy with the effort, was frustrated with his team’s inability to put an 80-minute performance together on the night.
“A little disappointed with the result but happy with the way the guys fought their way back in the second-half,” said Mortlock.
“But at this level, when you allow a team to get away to that kind of start, it’s very difficult to get back into the game.
“We came here to get the win, so we’re very disappointed. We’re happy with certain aspects of the game but it’s the inconsistency that is really frustrating at the moment.”
The Lions opened the scoring in just the second minute with a 60-metre team try finished off by outside centre Waylon Murray, with winger Lionel Mapoe prominent in the build up.
Elton Jantjies made no mistake with the conversion from out wide to get his team off to the perfect start.
The Lions were again on the scoresheet soon after when they held on for 13 phases, moving the ball across the pitch and back again, stretching the defence before flanker Derrick Minnie scored in the corner.
Jantjies was once again deadly with the boot, this time from the opposite sideline to make the score 14-0.
The game then became evenly balanced for the next 20 minutes before another barrage of possession for the Lions enabled them to extend their lead.
A lineout by the Lions quickly turned into a maul just five metres out from their attacking try-line, and Minnie burst through a huge gap to cross untouched for his second try of the game.
Jantjies kept his 100% kicking record in tact to stretch the lead out to 24-0 with five minutes of the first half remaining.
On the stroke of half-time the Rebels we were rewarded for so many near misses when hooker Ged Robinson fell over the line on the back of a strong maul by his fellow forwards.
Fullback Julian Huxley sent the team into the sheds on a positive note when he converted the try to make the score 24-7.
The Rebels got the second-half off to the perfect start when second-rower Hugh Pyle barged over from close range following some sustained pressure.
Huxley made no mistake from a slight angle to close the gap to 24-14.
Just moments later Pyle was over again. Some brilliant passing and link play right across the park saw the big man cross in the corner.
Unfortunately Huxley missed his first conversion attempt of the night, and the gap was now just five points, 24-19.
More great work from the Rebels saw a penalty awarded close to the try-line right in front when the Lions didn’t clear the ruck, and Huxley gladly accepted the three-point gift and the gap was just two points with 20 minutes remaining.
A scrum penalty against the Rebels for putting a hand on the ground gave Jantjies the chance to steady ship for the Lions, and he made no mistake making it five-from-five to stretch their lead out to 27-22.
A charge down by James Hilgendorf from a Lions kick off the back of a scrum saw the ball ricochet into the in-goal area, the flyhalf chasing the ball and touching down, albeit messily, to tie the scores up.
Huxley converts the try easily and the Rebels lead for the first time in the match 29-27.
Yet another penalty against the Lions for holding the player in the tackle gave Huxley the chance to kick for goal from right in front, and he happily accepted to make it 32-27 with less than 10 minutes on the clock.
Just minutes later Lions replacement Jaco Kriel crossed in the corner to tie the scores up at 32-all before Jantjies made no mistake with the conversion, once again from the sideline, to wrestle the lead back with just six minutes to go.
One last chance for the Rebels to begin an attack deep in their own half went begging when a pass was pushed forward and out, the Lions taking advantage just a couple of phases later when Jantjies kicked a penalty goal to wrap the game up 37-32 for the home team.
Lions 37 (Tries: Minnie 2, Murray, Kriel; Conversions: Jantjies 4; Penalties: Jantjies 3) def. Rebels 32 (Tries: Pyle 2, Robinson, Hilgendorf; Conversions: Huxley 3; Penalties: Huxley 2) at Coca-Cola Park, Johannesburg.
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