Home Sport Connacht hold on against Lions despite Odendaal brilliance

Connacht hold on against Lions despite Odendaal brilliance

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Connacht held on grimly, run ragged by the Lions, to claim a breathless victory at Emirates Airline Park on Saturday in an exciting United Rugby Championship encounter.

Burger Odendaal takes the ball up against Connacht during their United Rugby Championship match. Picture: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG – Connacht held on grimly, run ragged by the Lions, to claim a breathless victory at Emirates Airline Park on Saturday in an exciting United Rugby Championship encounter.

The Lions will probably realise on review that it was their game management that ultimately lost them the match, as Connacht did just enough to slow down the pace, then up the tempo at will, while also disrupting the breakdown enough to stall the Lions ambitions.

The hosts started with a layer of ring-rust to shake off with the Irish-outfit taking a well-deserved 14-0 lead within the first 15 minutes of the encounter. Indeed, the only contribution the Lions brought to the game during that period, was a bit of boot drama as lock Ruben Schoeman cycled through four pairs of shoes – including those of teammate Carlu Sadie.

Connacht, meanwhile, besieged the Lions 22 and opened their account through flank Cian Prendergast, who was never-ending in his commitment throughout the game. Moments later Ruan Dreyer fell afoul of the referee in his maul defence to be sanctioned and concede a penalty try.

Nonetheless, the visitors will have felt aggrieved that they did not convert more of their chances, the Lions scrabbling in defence to deny them and affecting turnovers at crucial moments.

Silly mistakes by the Lions, meanwhile, cost them any momentum and Jordan Hendrikse was especially guilty of not being accurate in his execution during the initial 30 minutes. The most egregious of mistakes was when the young No 10 fluffed an attacking opportunity by toeing a penalty kick for an attacking line-out just too far with the Joburgers had finally found a bit of rhythm.

The 20-year-old also left his kicking boots at home, missing pots at goal that would have swung the clash the way of the hosts. He will, however, learn much from the encounter and come back better for it.

The Lions also decided to throw caution to the wind at times – arguably not the best decision-making – running the ball from behind their own tryline. Even so it was this youthful abandon that created the most exciting moments of the match.

In such broken play, Wandisile Simelane is boss; and the outside-centre had a ball in the midfield running, stepping and passing with joy. The No 13 was instrumental in creating the first try for the Lions with a brilliant line-break to unleash Rabz Maxwane to cross the whitewash easy as you like.

Then there were the Tshituka Brothers – Vincent and Man of the Match Emmanuel – who started off slowly but built up a serious head of steam as the match progressed, running Connacht ragged in close-quarter combat.

Nevertheless, Connacht captain and flyhalf Jack Carty, meanwhile, kept his side in the game, banking on the Lions errors at ruck-time and ticking over the scoreboard, while marshalling his side on attack.

His educated boot drilled the Irish club into the corners, and it was off one such penalty that centre pairing Bundee Aki and Tom Daly busted their way through the Lions defence to extend their lead to 30-18. But it was full-back Mack Hansen who arguably was the best of the Galway-based backline.

The Lions replied in kind with Edwill van der Merwe closing the gap to seven points after the Lions dominating an attacking maul, to set up an exciting final 15 minutes. And it was skipper Burger Odendaal who set up that last 10 minutes with a peak line-break to dive over the tryline and equal the scores.

Carty, however, had the final say slotting over a penalty to secure Connacht only a second European victory in South Africa this season.

Point-scorers

Emirates Lions (8) 30 – Tries: Maxwane, Van den Berg, Van der Merwe, Odendaal. Conversion: Hendrikse (2). Penalty: Hendrikse (2). Yellow Card: Dreyer

Connacht (14) 33 – Tries: Prendergast, Penalty Try, Daly. Conversion: Carty (2). Penalties: Carty (4).

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