Challenge Cup series: Lions lose, but youngsters roar hard against Montpellier


One of any rugby team’s greatest assets is when it has depth and its second-best players are just as nimble as their best players.

The Lions’ second-best showed this on Saturday night in the Stade Yves-du-Manoir in Montpellier when they were beaten 13-3 by star-studded Montpellier in the European Challenge Cup series.

Ironically, Montpellier had three Springboks (Jan Serfontein, Cobus Reinach and Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg) in its starting team, while the Lions boasted only one Springbok, Andries Coetzee, who last played for the Springboks in 2017.

But the Lions’ youngsters did not lie down and continued to fight.

They sometimes made Montpellier grunt in the scrums, they gave the home team uphill in the lineouts and with their jump-up defense strangled the home team behind the advantage line.

Thanks to this victory, Montpellier (14 points) is three points ahead of Benetton (11 points) in the standings, with the Lions in third position on nine points together with the Welsh Ospreys.

The Lions will play against the Ospreys at Ellis Park this coming Sunday, but regardless of this result, both teams already boast enough league points to make it to the knock-out rounds as one of the top four teams in their group.

The Lions gave Montpellier all their days in the first half.

They forced the home side, who dominated possession and enjoyed territorial advantage, into errors. It was especially Hanru Sirgel, JC Pretorius, Izan Esterhuizen, Etienne Oosthuizen, Conraad van Vuuren and Callie Visagie who slowed down the French’s possession at the breakdown points.

At the back, Coetzee, Boldwin Hansen, Stean Pienaar, Erich Cronjé and Nico Steyn were full of energy and entrepreneurial spirit.

Montpellier, who trailed 0-3 at half-time, sent on some of their heavyweights such as French lock Paul Willemse after half-time and it made a huge difference.

Tries by center Geoffrey Doumaroy and Willemse, as well as a penalty by Italian test flyhalf Paolo Garbisi, gave Montpellier its victory.

The Lions almost won a bonus point with a last try shortly before the end, but a fiery Pretorius had butter fingers with the goal line beckoning.

Despite the defeat, the Lions can hold their heads high.

Yes, there were many mistakes and sometimes wrong decision-making, but it was not easy to beat the home team late at night in an icy cold Montpellier.
The Lions still roared loudly towards the end.

Scorers: Montpellier 13 (0): Tries: Geoffrey Doumayrou, Paul Willemse. Penalty Goal: Paolo Garbisi.

Lions 3 (3): Penalty: Jordan Hendrikse.