The Lions produced a superb performance to pick up a fantastic 31-18 (halftime 10-13) bonus point win over Cardiff in their United Rugby Championship (URC) clash, to pick up their second away win on the bounce in Wales on Friday night.
Having upset Ospreys in Swansea last weekend, the Lions proved it wasn’t a fluke by backing up that result up by claiming a four try bonus point win in Cardiff, to make sure it will be a successful overseas tour regardless of the result in their final match against Edinburgh in Scotland next week Friday.
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In the match it was a game of two halves, with the team that had the wind at their back dominating play, as Cardiff were on top for the majority of the first half, before the Lions took over and took charge in the second.
However it was the Lions first half defence that arguably won them the game as despite Cardiff’s dominance, the hosts only went into the break with a three point lead.
During the first 20 minutes of the match, Cardiff enjoyed a whopping 86% possession and had entered the Lions 22m four times, but a mixture of mistakes and big defence meant Cardiff only led 3-0 thanks to a penalty from flyhalf Jarrod Evans.
They extended that lead to 6-0 in the 26th minute after the Lions were penalised for hands in the ruck just outside the 22m, with Evans on target again.
The visitors then hit back four minutes later as a massive tackle from outside centre Henco van Wyk, along with him then getting over the ball, earned a penalty outside the 22m in front, with flyhalf Gianni Lombard slotting the kick.
A thrilling final three minutes of the half then saw the match suddenly burst into life as a mistake from Lions scrumhalf Sanele Nohamba saw him spill a kick into the 22m out of play, giving Cardiff an attacking lineout.
From the lineout Cardiff attacked, bashing away at the Lions line until flank James Botham smashed his way over under the poles, with Evans converting for a 13-3 lead.
However there was still time for the Lions to reply as two late penalties gave them a 5m lineout, with them setting up the maul and powering it towards the line when Cardiff brought it down illegally, leading to a penalty try and yellow card to eighthman Taulupe Faletau.
The second half then saw the tables turn, as the Lions now with the wind started dominating, and deservedly took the lead in the 50th minute as they powered a maul over from a 5m lineout, with hooker PJ Botha dotting down and Lombard converting to put them 17-13 up.
Cardiff had been their worst enemies and had given up 15 penalties to just three from the Lions by the 60th minute, giving the visitors all the momentum in the second half.
In the 64th minute the Lions then went to the corner again but this time their maul was stopped, leading to a number of pick and goes from the forwards until the ball spilled out the side, with replacement scrumhalf Morne van den Berg picking up the ball and diving over to score.
Lombard’s extras gave the Lions an 11 point lead heading into the final 15 minutes, but Cardiff almost hit back immediately as they finally won a few penalties themselves, allowing them to set up a 5m lineout.
This time it was the home sides maul that started working, as they rumbled over in the corner, with replacement forward Shane Lewis-Hughes scoring an unconverted try to make it 24-18, going into the final 10 minutes.
The Lions then sealed the win and bonus point in the 78th minute, after a kick through from Lombard was kicked on by left wing Quan Horn, with him chasing the ball down and dotting down superbly, followed by Lombard adding the extras.
Cardiff: Tries – James Botham, Shane Lewis-Hughes; Conversion – Jarrod Evans; Penalties – Evans (2)
Lions: Tries – Penalty Try, PJ Botha, Morne van den Berg, Quan Horn; Conversions – Gianni Lombard (4); Penalty – Lombard