A last-minute try from Chris Latham gave the Reds a 24-all draw against the Lions at Ellis Park.
The Lions led for most of the match, but again didn’t show the killer instinct or experience to successfully close out a game. They will again be happy with the performance, but the result can be viewed as a loss for them, as they defended a lead and gave away two valuable points on the log.
Despite a little rain before kick-off, the ground was in perfect condition and both teams contributed to an entertaining game. There was much intent to score tries and to keep the ball alive, but the teams showed why they are in the bottom half of the log as their execution at the end of the moves repeatedly let them down, and as a result the half-time score was 3-0 to the Lions.
The game was played at a frantic pace early on, with both teams swopping many turnovers. The Lions could’ve been three tries up inside thirteen minutes, but for another match this season they again couldn’t finish. Centre Walter Venter and flyhalf Jaco van Schalkwyk both made clean linebreaks, but each came to nothing as wrong options ended the respective movements, while from a good set-piece move flank Cobus Grobbelaar dropped a poor pass from wing Rayno Benjamin with an opening try-line beckoning five metres away.
The Reds also had a chance of their own when Quade Cooper dropped the ball over line after a great tackle from Venter, but the warning signs were there for the Lions as they put in an aimless kick down field, the adequate chase didn’t come, and fullback Chris Latham countered.
The Lions didnt heed this warning as another poor kick and even worse defence from the hosts gifted the Reds a soft try early in the second half, as wing Peter Hynes fielded the ball and ran 70 metres straight down the field after only beating one tackler, and all of a sudden the hosts were down for the first time in the match.
The Lions managed to score from the first-phase off a scrum, something South African teams have struggled to do this Super 14, when Jaco van Schalkwyk made a brilliant break and off-loaded to eighthman Joe van Niekerk who was positioned in the centres. But when Reds replacement prop Rodney Blake scored and narrowed the gap to four points with 15 minutes remaining, a tight finish was always to be expected.
A 60-metre drop from Van Schalkwyk gave the Lions a seven-point lead, but this was never comfortable as they had to continuously defend for the final ten minutes. Latham eventually broke the Lions’ dam wall with his try, and Schifcofske did the rest and added the conversion to secure a draw.
The Lions have a bye before heading to the Antipodes and will have to work on their defence which cost them massively, while the Reds will take on the Sharks next week with some extra confidence.
Lions - Tries: Joe van Niekerk, Rayno Benjamin. Penalties: Jano Vermaak (3). Drop-kick: Jaco van Schalkwyk. Conversion: Jano Vermaak.
Reds – Tries: Peter Hynes, Rodney Blake, Chris Latham. Penalty: Clinton Schifcofske. Conversions: Clinton Schifcofske (3).
By Grant Ball