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Rugby Union: Scots' revival falls just short

Golden Lions 33 Scotland 31
A ROUSING second-half display was not quite enough to prevent Scotland from ending their four-match tour of South Africa with a narrow defeat by Gauteng's Golden Lions at Ellis Park yesterday.

Despite the absence of the former Springbok fly-half Hennie Le Roux, the Lions raced into a 30-11 lead by the interval. But converted tries during the last 10 minutes of regulation time by the flankers, Budge Pountney and Martin Leslie, kept the Five Nations' champions' chances alive until the final whistle.

Poor finishing in the first half cost the Scots dear as several potential tries foundered on the tips of unsure fingers. Not only was the touring team's support play below par in the first half, but they also lacked purpose with ball in hand and their defence was unsound.

By contrast, the Lions' more mobile forwards maintained their team's forward momentum and their backs probed every gap on offer. Those tactics earned them four tries, two for their bustling full-back Kobus Engelbrecht, in a highly entertaining first half.

During that period, the centre Wickhus Venter and fly-half M J Smith ran in tries for the home side while Engelbrecht also supplied two conversions and two penalties. Scotland replied with a touchdown from the Leicester wing Craig Joiner and a couple of penalties from their fly-half Duncan Hodge.

But in restricting the home side to just three points after the break while scoring 20 points themselves, Scotland showed more attacking intent and commitment in this match than they did last Tuesday when they succumbed to Mpumalanga - their first defeat since losing to England back in February.

The second half was more subdued as the boot of Hodge, who kicked a further two penalties, kept Scotland in the running. Solid forward play ensured the Scottish backs were fed plenty of possession and their improved performance paid off with the late tries of Pountney and Leslie which were both converted by Craig Chalmers.