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Lions power over Highlanders at Ellis Park

Sportal.co.nz     11 Feb 2007    

The Highlanders held the Lions scoreless in the second spell at Ellis Park but they were unable to achieve enough rhythm in their own attack to breach the Lions' defence.

Josh Blackie was an outstanding leader for the Highlanders and James Ryan and Hoani MacDonald also had big games in the pack.

Jimmy Cowan played well behind a pack, which was on the back foot at times and Charles Hore gave the backline direction when he came on as a sub in the second spell.

It was a game of mediocre standard and the Lions botched several chances to add to their one try.

The Lions attacked from the kick-off as steady rain fell and, after five minutes, Louis Strydom kicked an easy penalty to give them a 3-0 lead.

From one of the first forays into Lions territory the Highlanders were awarded a penalty and Callum Bruce kicked a fine, angled goal from almost 40 metres to level the scores.

The Lions attacked strongly soon after but, with the Highlanders' defence fully stretched, centre Doppies la Grange dropped the ball.

The Lions regained the lead after 28 minutes when a kick ahead by wing Greg Zampach landed in the bread-basket of his opposite, Wylie Human, who seized the offering gratefully and sprinted 45m to the line and make it 8-3.

The Highlanders forced a five metre scrum from a kick and chase a few minutes later but Bruce lost the ball in the tackle and the chance went begging.

The Lions drove strongly towards the Highlanders' line four minutes before the break and, from a collapsed maul, Strydom kicked his second penalty to extend the lead to 11-3.

That was the halftime score and the Lions' lead was deserved. The Highlanders struggled to get quality possession and the backs often seemed fumbled and bumbled behind the scrum.

Lucky Mulipola was especially dodgy under the high ball and Bruce also struggled with his hands.

The Lions attacked immediately in the second spell and lock Cobus Grobler was over the line, only to be held up in the tackle of Cowan, after a sniping break by Willie Alberts.

The Highlanders made their first really threatening foray when Cowan breached the defence from a lineout but Ryan was penalised for not releasing the ball in the tackle.

The Highlanders were reduced to 10 men after 11 minutes when Mulipola was sin-binned for a dangerous tackle in the air of opposite Jaco Pretorius, but Strydom missed the ensuing penalty attempt.

The Lions seemed certain to increase their lead 18 minutes from the end but substitute wing Willie Rickards pulled off a try-saving tackle on Louis Ludik, forcing him into touch.

Hore had played well since he came on as a substitute for Jason Kawau early in the second spell and he kicked a penalty from 40 metres out and 11 minutes from the end to narrow the gap to 6-11.

The Highlanders cleared the bench in the last quarter and there was fresh urgency among the New Zealanders as they sought their first try.

The Lions seemed poised to add their second try but Highlanders fullback Craig Clare intercepted and hacked the ball downfield.

The Highlanders attacked strongly in the final stages but the Lions' defence held for them to gain their first win of the season.

Lions 11 (Wylie Human 1 try, Louis Strydom 2 pen) Highlanders 6 (Callum Bruce, Charles Hore 1 pen)