Arnold's red gifts Lions win
Brenden Nel
May 19, 2018

Brumbies lock Rory Arnold’s moment of madness swung a tight Vodacom Super Rugby match firmly in the favour of the Emirates Lions as the Johannesburg side went on to record a 42-24 win on Saturday night.

Leading the Lions 24-21 after an hour on the clock, the big Australian lock followed up a yellow card in the first half with a moment of sheer stupidity, a head-high cheap shot on Lions 100-game hero Elton Jantjies within his own 22 metre area.

It was a textbook case of what referees have been warning about all season. Arnold, who walked off the field with a head injury after falling badly, received his red card in abstentia as referee Nick Briant took his time before awarding the inevitable.

Arnold is likely to get a stiff sentence for the red, for a part of the game that Sanzaar are trying to root out. With the card, he killed off his side’s chances of a rare win at Ellis Park.

It became worse as, after he left the field, his lock partner Sam Carter was yellow-carded for bringing down a lineout drive. Down to 13, the next lineout saw Marnus Schoeman score at the back of the maul and get the Lions into the lead.

It came as a welcome relief on a night where the Lions had hardly impressed, but battled enough to be in the game against a tenacious Brumbies side that caused them all manner of problems.

From there the Lions powered on, as Shaun Reynolds and Lourens Erasmus scored late tries to see them home and balloon the scoreline quickly.

Still, despite the big scoreline, Lions supporters have cause for concern. Their recent woes on the New Zealand tour seemed to follow them home as they struggled to launch their attacks and looked stale and bereft of attacking ideas, something we’ve never really been used to at their home ground on the Highveld.

But give it to the Brumbies. The Australian side may not be enjoying the best of seasons, but they certainly know how to break down the momentum of an opposition side. Through stifling defence, they stopped the Lions' momentum almost too easily, and played a lot of the time off mistakes.

That being said, the influence of midfielder Tevita Kuridrani and flyhalf Christian Lealiifano cannot be underestimated. The rejigged Lions midfield struggled to contain the duo and it was more often than not that both found momentum on attack.

On attack the Lions ran too laterally, and for all the promise of putting another speedster in the midfield, their return on attack would have disappointed them. On top of that, the normal momentum at the breakdown never arrived and David Pocock frustrated the home side more than once with what he was allowed to get away with.

The Lions had been stunned in the opening minute when fullback Tom Banks showed an unbelievable turn of pace to round centurion Elton Jantjies with ease, and power his way to the tryline with just 65 seconds on the clock.

It was a remarkable try in that it looked so easy, yet showed the pace that Banks and his Brumbies side can produce at the drop of a hat.

The Lions tried to hit back almost immediately and were twice over the line with tries that weren’t awarded before Rohan Janse van Rensburg bounced one defender and beat a second out wide to run around and score their first try.

The Brumbies used the inside switch to punch through the middle well, first with Tevita Kuridrani in the 17th minute to beat Aphiwe Dyantyi to score, and then again in the second half when Schoeman was unable to stop a flying Banks for a second try.

For the Lions their lineout drive was working wonders though, and Robbie Coetzee grabbed a try straight after Arnold’s first-half yellow on the half-hour mark. Then Ruan Dreyer helped them take the lead at the break with a similar effort to see them into halftime at 21-17.

But in the end the moment that counted was Arnold’s moment of madness and from then on, it was game, set and match to the Lions.


Emirates Lions – Tries: Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Robbie Coetzee, Ruan Dreyer, Marnus Schoeman, Shaun Reynolds, Lourens Erasmus. Conversions: Elton Jantjies (6)

Brumbies – Tries: Tom Banks (2), Tevita Kuridrani. Conversions: Christian Lealiifano (3). Penalty: Lealiifano

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