‘That is what it’s going to take to win games’: Lions set up tough quarter

Liam Del Carme Sports reporter
Gianni Lombard of the Lions scores his try in the EPCR Challenge Cup match aganist Racing 92 at Ellis Park on April 1 2023.
Gianni Lombard of the Lions scores his try in the EPCR Challenge Cup match aganist Racing 92 at Ellis Park on April 1 2023.
Image: Christiaan Kotze/Gallo Images

The Lions have set up a tough away quarterfinal with Glasgow Warriors in the Challenge Cup next Saturday.

Flank Ruan Venter enhanced his burgeoning reputation upfront, while scrumhalf Sanele Nohamba masterfully pulled the strings at the back as the Lions surged into the quarterfinals at Ellis Park on Saturday night.

Their 51-28 win against Racing 92 came in arguably their best performance in European competition.

Lions head coach Ivan van Rooyen said he was immensely proud of the performance. “The guys worked extremely hard to get the result, especially with the red card. You could see by the end there were just exhausted.

Lions vs Racing 92 EPCR Challenge Cup Round of 16 highlights.

“That is what it’s going to take to win games like this against a great team full of Test stars. Even though they travelled, so did we.”

The Lions proved a compelling force on attack and put the visitors' defence to the sword almost every time they played themselves into threatening positions.

It is however an indictment of the visitors' desire and mindset that the Lions scored the bulk of their points while they were a player down.

Racing were disjointed and frankly looked disinterested for large parts. Even when they were presented a potential lifeline with the sending-off of Emmanuel Tshituka, they failed to grasp the moment.

Tshituka's banishment threatened to determine the course of the match but such was the Lions' resolve and the visitors' laissez faire approach, particularly on defence, it did not matter.

Tshituka was shown a red card in the first half but again it was a sanction at odds with a high-velocity collision sport. A yellow card might have been a more appropriate sanction.

Tshituka clattered into an upright defender who was knocked out once he hit the deck. The utility forward's elbow made first contact with the neck area. The laws are the laws and the officials took a dim view of it.

That put the Lions in potential peril and threatened to undo much of their good work earlier in the first half.

Marius Louw's intercept try got them going before Edwill van der Merwe raced clear after Racing's Warrick Gelant was robbed of possession with the visitors on attack.

The Lions at times made it hard for themselves. Elementary errors like missing touch or back-chatting the referee are entirely avoidable indiscretions. In fact, Racing benefited directly from the penalty they got from the Lions' back chat when flyhalf Ben Volavola scored a converted try that brought them back to within six points after 49 minutes.

It was the Lions, however, who finished the match stronger and entirely in command.

The other quarterfinals feature Scarlets against Clermont on Friday, Toulon against Lyon and Benetton against Cardiff both on Saturday.

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