Attacking game plan wins the day

Lions dish out dazzling performance despite paltry crowd

Athenkosi Tsotsi Sports Reporter
Francke Horn of the Lions with the ball during the EPCR Challenge Cup match between Emirates Lions and Racing 92 at Emirates Airline Park on April 01, 2023 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Francke Horn of the Lions with the ball during the EPCR Challenge Cup match between Emirates Lions and Racing 92 at Emirates Airline Park on April 01, 2023 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Image: Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images

A 14-men Lions side thrashed Racing 92, 51 – 28 in the Challenge Cup last night under the lights at Ellis Park to make it to the quarterfinal of the competition.  

In what can be described as the Lions’ biggest game in recent years post the Super Rugby era, the turnout at Ellis Park was rather substandard for a knockout game against club rugby giants Racing. The disappointment in the turnout was confirmed by a spectator who said on his way to the stands, “there’s a team from France but it’s empty”.  

Despite the 2,894 spectators in the stands, the atmosphere was electric, the crowd supported the  Lions, they roared when big tackles were made, cheered at every attacking phase, rejoiced at every try, and showed their dissatisfaction when the referee’s decision did not go their way. 

The fans were rewarded with an excellent display of rugby by their team. This was by far the best match the Lions have played. They were on the front foot from the onset. They never missed a beat in the 80 minutes. 

Lions backline coach Ricardo Loubscher mentioned during the week they wanted to play attacking rugby.  They implemented that game plan while the visitors, on the other hand, were depending on their big forward pack but that proved to be a wrong decision as they could not get near the quick Lions' backline when attempting a tackle.  

Ivan van Rooyen’s side was at their very best, they moved the ball swiftly through the middle of the park to the wide channels. The first try came when captain Marius Louw intercepted the ball close to the halfway line and ran to dot down. The second try, was the best example of running rugby, from a scrum the ball moved to Louw in the midfield and he swung it to speedster Edwil van der Merwe who just ran away to score. Rabz Maxwane’s try came similarly, flyhalf Gianni Lombard like Louw intercepted a Racing ball and pierced through their defence before laying it for Maxwane.

The team needed to show resilience and tenacity when they were down to 14 men for an hour after their enforcer and lineout caller Emmanuel Tshituka got a red card. Going up against a traditional French team that thrives on physicality and being a man short was always going to be a tough ask. The Lions were weak when sucked into the ground and asked to defend their line. The four tried conceded can be said was a result of them being without Tshituka as they were thin on their defence.  

An impressive aspect of the Lions' game was their game management, knowing they were a man down, they needed to keep the scoreboard pressure and they did that well. They scored a try right before halftime through Ruan Venter and two successfully via Louw and Lombard minutes into the second half.  

When leading by 13 points with 20 minutes left in the match, the Lions dug deep and were pragmatic in their approach, from that came a try from Sanele Nohamba, who slotted in the conversion. With a score of 48-28 with ten minutes remaining, the fans were full in voice, they could smell a last-eight berth.  

Those who made their way to Doornfontein witnessed a big win, they were there when the Lions made history becoming the first South African side to make it to the quarter-finals of the Challenge Cup. The Lions sealed the 51 –28 win with a penalty from Andries Coetzee 

HT: Lions 27 - 14 Racing 92 

FT: Lions 51 - 28 Racing 92



Try: Marius Louw (2), Edwill van der Merwe, Rabz Maxwane, Ruan Venter, Gianni Lombard, Sanele Nohamba  

Con: Sanele Nohamba (5) 

Pen: Sanele Nohamba, Andries Coetzee 

Racing 92 

Try: Thomas Moukoro (2), Olivier Klemenczak, Donovan Taofifénua 

Con: Nolann Le Garrec (3), Max Spring  



  1. JP Smith, 2.  PJ Botha, 3.   Asenathi Ntlabakanye, 4.  Willem Alberts, 5.  Reinhard Nothnagel, 6.   Emmanuel Tshituka, 7.   Ruan Venter, 8.  Francke Horn, 9.  Sanele Nohamba, 10.   Gianni Lombard, 11.  Edwill van der Merwe, 12.  Marius Louw ©, 13.  Manuel Rass, 14.   Rabz Maxwane, 15.  Quan Horn



    16.Morne Brandon, 17.   Rhynardt Rijnsburger, 18.  Ruan Dreyer, 19.  Ruben Schoeman, 20. Travis Gordon, 21. Morne van den Berg, 22. Rynhardt Jonker, 23.  Andries Coetzee


Racing 92  

   15. Louis Dupichot, 14. Donovan Taofifénua, 13. Warrick Gelant, 12. Olivier Klemenczak, 11. Juan Imhoff,       10. Ben Volavola, 9. Nolann Le Garrec, 8. Cameron Woki, 7. Maxime Baudonne, 6. Wenceslas Lauret, 5.        Anton Bresler, 4. Anthime Hemery, 3. Ali Oz, 2. Peniami Narisia, 1. Thomas Moukoro 


   16. Jonathan Maiau, 17. Guram Gogichashvili, 18. Biyi Alo, 19. Fabien Sanconnie, 20. Ibrahim Diallo, 21. Martin Meliande, 22. Max Spring, 23. Asaeli Tuivuaka 

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