South Africa

Lions ‘played their hearts out’, says coach about win against Warriors

Lions Glasgow Alberts 1

Lions coach Ivan van Rooyen has hailed his team for their “fight and character” in overcoming several odds against them to beat United Rugby Championship table-toppers Glasgow Warriors in a penultimate round match at Ellis Park on Saturday.

The Lions lost their captain Marius Louw to injury before kick-off, then lost key loose forward Emmanuel Tshituka to injury in the first half, before his replacement, Ruan Venter, was red-carded, leaving the Lions to play the majority of the match with 14 men.

On top of that, No 8 Francke Horn was sin-binned, leaving the Lions to play with 13 men for 10 minutes either side of half-time.

Four-try blitz

But, after being 14-8 down in the 50th minute and the odds stacked against them, the Lions found an extra gear to run in four converted tries in eight minutes to charge into the lead, and they’d add another try at the death to record a 44-21 win, to stay alive in the URC quarter-finals chase.

“When you go a man down you do get nervous,” said Van Rooyen, “especially against a team as dangerous as Glasgow are.

“Discipline is then key, and so is staying to the plan, and the guys did that.

“They showed great character and fight, they played their hearts out, so well done to them.

“It was enjoyable to see the players’ effort … their desperation to chase back, to chase kicks, that was special. It was our last home game and to play like that, in front of our own fans, was nice.”

‘Keep fighting’

Captain Willem Alberts, who stood in for Louw, said: “When you go down to 14 men there’s a mental switch that goes off … and every guy just works a little harder, and that makes a big difference on the field. We just had to keep fighting and stay in the game, and we did that.”

With one round of matches remaining before the last eight are confirmed, the Lions are ninth with 49 points. Just ahead of them on the points table are Benetton (49), Edinburgh (49) and Ulster 53.

To qualify for the quarter-finals, the Lions will have to beat the Stormers in Cape Town on June 1 and then hope other results favour them.

In the clashes that matter for the Joburg team, Benetton and Edinburgh clash in Italy, while Ulster are away to Munster in their final matches.