Winger Courtnall Skosan scored four tries as the Lions secured an emphatic 44-14 win over the Reds in Johannesburg on Saturday. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
It’s now eight wins in a row at home for the Lions, dating back to last year’s Super Rugby season. On this occasion, their cause was helped by the poor defence and ill-discipline of the Reds, but this was largely a byproduct of the pressure applied from the fluent ball-in-hand play from the Lions.
After an up and down start to the season, this looked a lot more like the unstoppable Lions machine that steamrolled all the way to the Super Rugby final in 2016.
The Lions featured 12 changes to the team that went down to the Jaguares last weekend, and a full-strength side started proceedings with the sort of ferocity and intensity that made them such an irrepressible force last season.
During a dominant opening quarter, Rohan Janse van Rensburg once again made a meaningful impact, and it was his break and deft offload that enabled Skosan to dart over for the opening try.
With the Lions forcing the Reds to make an inordinate amount of tackles, while establishing ascendancy at scrum time, they eventually reaped due reward when Jaco Kriel barrelled over the tryline from the back of a driving maul just before the break.
At 15-0 up, the half-time stats illustrated the Lions’ dominance, which saw them make 418m with ball in hand to 172m, while executing seven linebreaks to none. In addition, the Reds missed 12 tackles and conceded eight penalties as they battled to contend with the Lions’ high-paced attack.
To make matters worse for the Reds, winger Eto Nabuli was shown a yellow card for an act of cynical play soon after the restart, and the Lions immediately made them pay with a try to the impressive Janse van Rensburg. In the act of the centre scoring, Reds flyhalf Quade Cooper also completed a head-high tackle, and was shown a red card to add to the visitors’ woes.
From there on, the only debate was going to be how many points the Lions would add to their win, with Malcom Marx dotting down and then Skosan completing his hat-trick soon after.
At least Izaia Perese and Taniela Tupou got the Reds on the scoreboard with late tries, but Skosan wasn’t done yet as he dotted down for his fourth five-pointer in between.
Lions – Tries: Courtnall Skosan (4), Jaco Kriel, Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Malcolm Marx. Conversions: Elton Jantjies (2), Andries Coetzee. Penalty: Jantjies.
Reds – Tries: Izaia Perese, Taniela Tupou. Conversions: Jake McIntyre (2).
Lions – 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Madosh Tambwe, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley (c), 7 Ruan Ackermann, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Jacques van Rooyen.
Subs: 16 Robbie Coetzee, 17 Dylan Smith/Corne Fourie, 18 Johannes Jonker, 19 Lourens Erasmus, 20 Kwagga Smith, 21 Ross Cronje, 22 Jaco van der Walt, 23 Harold Vorster.
Reds – 15 Karmichael Hunt, 14 Izaia Perese, 13 Samu Kerevi, 12 Duncan Paia’aua, 11 Eto Nabuli, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Nick Frisby, 8 Scott Higginbotham, 7 George Smith, 6 Hendrik Tui, 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Sam Talakai, 2 Andrew Ready, 1 James Slipper (c).
Subs: 16 Stephen Moore, 17 Markus Vanzati, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Lukhan Tui, 20 Adam Korczyk, 21 James Tuttle, 22 Jake McIntyre, 23 Chris Kuridrani.
Photo: Anne Laing/HM Images