Lions hammer bleak Bulls

The Lions caused a shock when they gave the Bulls a 44-21 hiding in their friendly at a packed Wits University.

The Bulls may have opted to field an understrength unit without Victor Matfield and Fourie du Preez to name just two, but they would have expected to be competitive at the very least.

But the  Lions produced some stupendous rugby for this early in the season, scoring five first half tries, and seven in all, that entertained the 6 000 strong crowd.  

The key to the win was quick ball they won at rucks, as this afforded the backs the necessary platform to pressure the Bulls’ defensive line. The first four tries were all scored on the overlap due to the earlier sterling work at the breakdown.

Such was the Lions’ dominance that they would have earned the bonus point - had this been competition time – after 32 minutes. The fifth was possibly the best of the evening after a 20m break from captain Baywatch Grobbelaar sent Jaque Fourie over to make the score 34-0 heading into the shed.

Fourie also highlighted his importance to the team with his marshaling of the defence, which kept the Bulls scoreless for the first half. One such hit on fellow Bok Danie Rossouw where he drove him backwards was particularly memorable.

What would have also pleased Lions coach Loffie Eloff was the form of his recruited Bok wingers, Ashwin Willemse and Henno Mentz. Finishing has been a problem, but both grasped any opportunity that came their way and were also productive around the park.

The second half saw a number of  replacements on for both sides, and as a result the match deteriorated into a scrappy one. The Bulls managed to open their account five minutes into the second half with a try from replacement flank Deon Stegmann, but the Lions hit straight back.

Michael Killian, on for Willemse, charged down Burton Francis’s clearance and flopped on the ball to snuff out any hopes of an unlikely Bulls comeback.

The Lions have no more official friendlies and must wait three weeks until their Super 14 opener against the Cheetahs. Conversely for Frans Ludeke’s Bulls, they have two warm-ups where they will hope to gain some confidence.

Lions -  Tries: Ashwin Willemse, Henno Mentz, Gert Muller, Earl Rose, Jaque Fourie, Michael Killian, Jano Vermaak. Conversions: Rose (3). Penalty: Rose.

Bulls - Tries: Deon Stegmann, Bakkies Botha, Akona Ndungane. Conversions: Burton Francis (2), Bryan Habana.

* The Lions B team beat their Bulls counterparts 22-13 after leading 12-3 at half-time. Lions centre Walter Venter was a standout for the hosts.

By Grant Ball, in Johannesburg