Rebels' South Africa hoodoo continues
July 4, 2014
Skipper Warren Whiteley dives over for a Lions try
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The Lions won six matches in a Super Rugby season for the first time after defeating Melbourne Rebels 34-17 at Ellis Park on Friday.
The previous best performance by the Johannesburg-based side was five victories during the 2007 season of the southern hemisphere provincial championship.
Leading 14-10 at half-time, the Lions briefly trailed during the second half before pulling away for a convincing triumph. It was a depressingly familiar outcome for the Australian visitors, who have never won a Super Rugby match in South Africa.
Rebels' skipper and No. 8 Scott Higginbotham did his team no favours by being sin-binned 10 minutes from time for an off-the-ball tackle on fellow loose forward Willie Britz.
Lions' fly-half Marnitz Boshoff contributed 19 points from five penalties and two conversions on a cold mid-winter Johannesburg night. Left-wing Anthony Volmink, flanker Warwick Tecklenburg and No. 8 and skipper Warren Whiteley scored a try each for the home side.
Left-wing Tom English and flanker Colby Fainga'a dotted down for the Rebels and full-back Jack Debreczeni converted both tries and potted a penalty.
The Rebels had no answer to the Lions' late surge in Johannesburg (video available in Australia only)
"We were a bit rusty during the opening half," admitted Whiteley about a side playing for the first time since the end of May owing to Springbok mid-season Tests. "There was an improvement during the second half as we got quicker ball from the breakdowns and kept it in hand longer."
"A few individual errors cost us dearly," conceded Higginbotham. "We were up against a really good Lions team who shifted the ball about well."
The result had no effect on the standings, with the Lions remaining 13th and the Rebels 14th and the South African Cheetahs propping up the table.
Volmink gave the Lions a dream start with a try 92 seconds after the kick-off before a crowd kept small by the weather and the counter-attraction of televised World Cup football. Boshoff, who created the score with a long skip pass, missed the touchline conversion, but atoned with a successful penalty kick on nine minutes to create an eight-point advantage.
The gap was narrowed to a single point midway through the half as English dived over for a try Debreczeni converted after a quick tap-and-go penalty from scrum-half Luke Burgess. Boshoff slotted two penalties and Debreczeni one before the break to leave the Lions four points in front.
The Rebels took the lead for the only time 12 minutes after the restart when a driving maul off a line-out gave Fainga'a to chance to dot down and Debreczeni converted.
But the Lions responded positively to take control and score 20 unanswered points for a second successive win after defeating compatriots the Bulls five weeks ago. A multi-phase attack culminated in Tecklenburg diving over between the posts and Boshoff converted before slotting two penalties.
Just after Higginbotham was sin-binned, Whiteley claimed a soft try off a pass from replacement scrum-half Faf de Klerk and Boshoff added the extra points.
The Lions host the Cheetahs next weekend in the final round of the league season, while the Rebels travel 60 kilometres north to Pretoria for a clash with the Bulls.