The Lions went down fighting against United Rugby Championship (URC) log leaders Leinster, settling for a 21-13 defeat, at the RDS Arena in a thrilling encounter in Dublin on Friday night.
The first half was a gritty affair as both teams ran hard on attack and created opportunities, but a combination of solid defence and attacking errors, saw Leinster score only one try in the half to two penalty goals by the Lions, which saw the visitors trailing 7-6 at the break.
Leinster hit back with two tries in quick succession in the second half and delivered a courageous defensive effort to limit the visitors to one try in the dying minutes, which was enough to secure them their ninth victory of the season.
Lions head coach Ivan van Rooyen and his team, however, will take a lot of confidence from their brave performance after losing four matches on the trot this season, as they showed courage on attack and defence, which will give them confidence going forward in the competition.
Leinster opened up the scoring with a well-worked try by wing Dave Kearney after spreading the ball out wide, and the successful conversion by Ross Byrne (flyhalf) put them 7-0 up on the scoreboard.
The visitors retaliated with a penalty goal by Jordan Hendrikse (flyhalf) in the 12th minute and they built on this with some good attacking spells as the half progressed.
The Johannesburgers’ worked their way close to the tryline in the 27th minute and were almost rewarded for their efforts, but they were penalised for holding on over the tryline, which denied them a valuable attacking opportunity.
Hendrikse added his second penalty goal in the 36th minute, leaving the team trailing 7-6 in the dying minutes of the half, and they maintained this score going into the sheds after Leinster was a denied a try following a tenacious defensive display by the Lions on the tryline.
Leinster struck early in the second half after stringing together several phases on attack close to the tryline and the rewards followed with two tries in quick succession by Michael Ala’alatoa (prop) and Scott Penny (replacement back), and the hosts soon found themselves 21-6 ahead.
The Lions had the final say of the match
The Lions pushed hard to close in on the hosts and made their way close to the tryline on a few combinations, but Leinster showed true commitment on defence to hold them out.
The Lions’ efforts finally paid off in the 78th minute with Jaco Kriel crashed over and Tiaan Swanepoel’s conversion pushed their score to 13 points, but their efforts were not enough, and the visitors had to settle for a disappointing 21-13 defeat.
Tries: Dave Kearney, Michael Ala’alatoa, Scott Penny
Conversions: Ross Byrne (3)
Try: Jaco Kriel
Conversion: Tiaan Swanepoel
Penalties: Jordan Hendrikse (2)