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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Lions will be pleased, but not ecstatic, after breaking URC duck against Scarlets

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“Any win is good – away from home, in tough European conditions, it is even better.

“We know it is going to be tough … but there has almost been a momentum shift, and the positive talk and energy is already different (after the win). We will get a bit of confidence out of this.”

That was Emirates Lions coach Ivan van Rooyen’s assessment after his side finally secured a victory in their United Rugby Championship campaign with a narrow 24-23 scoreline at Parc y Scarlets on Saturday.

In the annals of Lions’ triumphs, the win won’t go down memory lane as a great one. Truth be told, the Lions’ problems remain – they are inaccurate in attack, and they are far too passive in defence. Scarlets, however, were just as poor in their game management and were unable to stitch up the victory despite leading 23-14 with 10 minutes left in the game.

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A win is a win

The Lions will not care one bit – a win, after all, is a win; and as pointed out by Van Rooyen, it could be the catalyst that kick-starts their season. Said Van Rooyen: “That is the difference in a competition like this. It is small margins.

“Luckily tonight, it was on our side. Last week it wasn’t but we gave ourselves an opportunity. We got stuck in there every time we conceded points. We applied pressure back onto them.”

In spite of an indifferent first half, when the Lions did start applying their power game to proceedings, and picked up the pace, Scarlets had few answers. They pinned the Welsh franchise in their half in the second stanza, controlling 62% of the territory. It resulted in Sanele Nohamba, playing out of his usual position of scrumhalf at No 10, slotting over a penalty and patiently converting a charge-down try, scored by Henco van Wyk, in the final 10 minutes.

Nohamba’s insertion into the channel, at the expense of 22-yearold Jordan Hendrikse, paid dividends as the Joburgers finally picked up an all-important win. The selection of Nohamba and Morne van den Berg at No 9, would have been a gamble – Hendrikse has been battling with his form and confidence – and Van Rooyen and Co will be pleased that its outcome was a positive one.

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Nonamba’s crucial contribution

Nohamba, 24, was awarded the Player of the Match, slotting over 11 points in the match and, along with Van den Berg, generated quick front-foot ball, especially in the second half.

“After winning,” said Van Rooyen of the selection, “you will always say you are glad it worked out.

“Between Morne and Zanele, they offered us something a bit different tonight, kicking game and attack-wise. We will reassess for next week. Zanele is a quality player. He is a great rugby player and the more times we get the ball in his hands, the more decisions he can make, which is good.”

The Lions have a quick turnaround this week as they prepare for their final tour match against Irish giants Ulster on Friday at Kingspan Stadium. Before this victory, they lost narrowly to Benetton, Edinburgh and Stormers, picking up four points in the process.

@FreemanZAR

IOL Sport

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