Emirates Lions 34 - 13 Cardiff Rugby
HT 17-3
Sat 11 May 17:15 Emirates Airline Park Ref: Eoghan Cross United Rugby Championship

Lions 34-13 Cardiff

Sat 11 May 2024 19:00 Lions 34-13 Cardiff

Cardiff paid the price for a slow start in Johannesburg as the Emirates Lions won a hard-fought BKT United Rugby Championship encounter.

The hosts snatched two soft tries in the opening 14 minutes at Ellis Park and remained in control of the encounter despite a spirited fight-back from the Blue and Blacks.

Corey Domachowski rumbled over early in the second-half and Tinus de Beer kept the scoreboard ticking with the conversion and two penalties but it was to enough as the lung-busting altitude played its part.

However, the Lions were able to pull away late in second-half, with two tries from Emmanuel Tshituka which enabled the home side to secure the bonus point win and earn a 34-14 victory. 

Cardiff has an early opportunity to open the scoring when the Lions spilled a Cam Winnett and collected from an offside position.

But de Beer, making his first appearance in South Africa since joining the club, pushed his attempt narrowly wide.

Cardiff exerted the early pressure as the Lions compounded errors but they quickly showed their attacking edge as they broke from their own line.

Now it was Cardiff making mistakes and they proved costly as the Lions laid the foundations for the opening score. It was loose and fast but also effective with Ryan Venter eventually dragged over. Sanele Nohamba added the extras to give his side a 7-0 lead after seven minutes.

Cardiff had their own moments in attack, first of all with Gabriel Hamer-Webb released into space and then Cam Winnett slicing through and combining with Gonzalo Bertranou but both opportunities petered out.

The Lions on the other hand were ruthless and they caught Cardiff napping when they took a penalty quickly and kicked long downfield.

Mackenzie Martin was the quickest to react but he could not quite catch Quan Horn, who crossed for an opportunistic try, with Nohamba again on target.

De Beer was on target on 22 minutes, bringing the scores to 14-3 but Nohamba quickly hit back to restore his side’s 14-point advantage.

Both sides had opportunities to assert pressure in the second quarter but continued to make errors with ball in hand.

Matt Sherratt changed the front-row and introduced Alun Lawrence for the second half and the begun with renewed impetus. But it was Lions, who rebooted the scoreboard after the Blue and Blacks were harshly penalised for Ben Thomas being in front of the kicker despite having no influence on play.

They continued to battle and were rewarded when Corey Domachowski rumbled over with the help of James Botham from close-range. De Beer added the extras to make it 20-10.

The fight-back continued with de Beer splitting the sticks following a sustained period of pressure and a superb 50-22 from Winnett gave the Blue and Blacks a good attacking opportunity but the line out was lost.

Moments later Jacob Beetham attempted a long-range penalty and while it had the legs, it drifted agonisingly to the right of the uprights.

And the visitors hard work was undone when Lions kicked a penalty to the corner and rumbled over for a third try through Emmanuel Tshituka on 74 minutes. The score was converted and gave the home side a 14-point lead with just over five minutes remaining.

To compound Cardiff’s woes, Tshituka finished a second try against the run of play as the Lions pounced on loose ball and Theo Cabango was blocked. The try gave the Lions the bonus point and the conversion was slotted from out wide to give the home side a 34-13 win over Cardiff.