Dragons rue wasted chances as Lions hold on for victory in Johannesburg
The Dragons were made to rue wasted opportunities as they suffered their first defeat in three matches in a battling 33-25 United Rugby Championship loss at the hands of the Lions in Johannesburg.
Prior to Sunday’s fixture, the hosts had won all three of their away fixtures but suffered defeats in each of their three matches at Emirates Airline Park.
The Dragons failed to make the most of an early Lions yellow card, and Ruhan Straeuli’s try combined with 14 points from the boot of Jordan Hendrikse had the home side 19-6 up at the interval.
Sio Tomkinson went over with the Lions down to 14 men again early in the second period, but Hendrikse’s touchdown kept the visitors at arm’s length.
James Benjamin’s try showed the Dragons were still in the fight, but JP Smith effectively wrapped up the win and Che Hope’s late score served only as consolation, as the Welsh region fell just short of a bonus point.
A pair of Hendrikse penalties, either side of a Sam Davies effort, gave the Lions an early lead.
However, it was the visitors who were arguably enjoying the better of possession, and the Lions had Emmanuel Tshituka sin-binned for a trip after 15 minutes.
Davies, who had played a central role in a move that saw the Dragons get agonisingly close to the Lions’ line just prior to Tshituka’s departure, then added his second penalty to pull the scores level.
Hendrikse then sent over a drop goal in the 28th minute, before Quan Horn’s 50:22 gave the Lions territory that ultimately led to the game’s first try.
Ross Moriarty saw yellow for collapsing a maul and Straeuli eventually crashed over to open up some daylight on the scoreboard, with Hendrikse’s conversion and a subsequent penalty making it 19-6 at the break.
The Lions lost Henco van Wyk to the sin bin early in the second half after his shoulder made contact with the head of Joe Davies.
The Dragons quickly made their hosts pay, with Tomkinson collecting Sam Davies’ cross-kick to go over in the corner.
The fly-half was unable to add the extras and the Lions re-established their cushion when Hendrikse went twisting and turning over the line before converting his own score.
Moriarty was dispossessed at the crucial moment as a promising Dragons move came to nothing, before Aki Seiuli failed to keep hold of the ball as he leapt over a ruck on the Lions’ line.
Benjamin eventually crossed for the Dragons’ second try from a maul, and JJ Hanrahan’s conversion had the Welsh region within eight.
The match looked all but won when Smith burrowed over soon after, with Gianni Lombard adding the extras, but there was still time for Hope to touch down and Hanrahan to make it 33-25.
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