Lions vs Reds – Super Rugby – 8 February 2020

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Neither of these teams has given any indication that they will be a huge threat so far. The Lions have been one of the top teams in the competition over the past 5 years, but have looked below par thus far. The Reds had a decent 2019 with an exceptionally young squad that showed lots of promise. That had not yet turned into solid results on the field one year on.

The Reds were the first on the board from a penalty goal, but the Lions struck back almost immediately through a clever little kick by Elton Jantjies that put in Tyrone Green. Will Jantjies be able to take the confidence he has in a Lions jersey into a Springbok jersey ever… we are still hoping it will happen someday.

Another good little chip through could have led to a 2nd Lions try in the first 10 minutes, but the Reds were lucky to pick it up and run it back for a try.

The 2nd try from Tyron Green who popped on the left wing was a beautiful one with some nifty footwork in a small space.

The locks of both teams really showed some great soft touches in the midfield to put players away around them. Something that has been a staple of New Zealand teams and mastered by Brodie Retallick. This resulted in a lot of line breaks, which made for spectacular rugby.

It was shocking to see the Lions suffer in a number of scrums with skilled props in Dylan Smith and Jannie du Plessis anchoring the scrum. The Reds took full advantage of this weakness and bossed the Lions scrum around.

The lineouts however belonged to the Lions with driving malls coming from many of them… and a Reds defense that had no answers for it. This also resulted in the 3rd try for the Lions and they went into half-time with a 17-13 lead.

After a long dry spell in the 2nd half where the Lions couldn’t take advantage of a 13-man Reds team, it was the Reds who went in under the polls to lead 17-20.

In the end the Lions were able to get the win, but it was quite ugly.

Lions grind out an ugly win

It was clear from the start that Elton Jantjies was going to direct things on the field for the Lions. He played with huge confidence from the start and was able to identify the gaps all over the field.

Tyrone Green got a taste for the tryline and just kept going! He did a lot more work than you would expect from a wing.

The work from Marnus Schoeman was also evident as he filled the “Kwagga Smith” role very effectively throughout the game.

The defensive work from the Lions overall during the first half kept the stars in the Reds backline quiet.

Of all the things the Lions did, it was the most encouraging to see them moving the ball very quickly from every ruck. This was a staple of their run that took them to 3 Super Rugby finals, but was missing in 2019.

Error-prone Reds

Although the Reds went into the lead early on (albeit with some luck) they were taking on the contact situations in a strange way. It looked like their two props were given instructions to take out anyone remotely close to a ruck. Most of their attempts were dangerous and reckless and could very well result in cards as the game wore on. The first card came just before halftime.

Their scrum was utterly dominant leaving the Lions shellshocked. It was the most dominant scrum display by any team in Super Rugby so far this year.

Apart from the scrums there was little to get excited about for the Reds.

Outstanding players

Lions: Jannie du Plessis (3), Marvin Orie (5), Marnus Schoeman (6), Morne van den Berg (9), Elton Jantjies (10), Tyrone Green (14), Andries Coetzee (15)

Reds: Jean-Pierre Smith (1), Taniela Tupou (3), Tate McDermott (9), Jock Campbell (14)

ThysRugby player of the game: Tyrone Green – he popped up everywhere and worked relentlessly

Best plays of the game

  • Elton Jantjies’ little grubber to put in Tyrone Green for his first ever Super Rugby try
  • Tyrone Green’s 2nd try. There was very little room to work with, but he got over the line with some impressive stepping
  • Morne van den Berg taking out his opposition scrumhalf behind the scrum forcing him to take it back over his own goal line and having to dot down
  • Marvin Orie keeping a level head when the Reds didn’t commit to the maul at the lineout and keeping his hands on the ball until the try was scored
  • The overpowering scrums from the Reds!
  • 20 phases which resulted in Courtnall Skosan’s try

Final verdict

Lions: They were able to win ugly. A win is a win at the end of the season and they made sure that they picked up a win on a day when they struggled to win a single scrum

Reds: They were just too sloppy. At times there was some amazing rugby from the Reds, but just too many mistakes.