Emirates Lions In Thrilling Draw With Dragons RFC


The Emirates Lions made history as they were the first of two South African teams to participate in the 2022/23 EPCR Challenge Cup when they drew with the Dragons RFC 31-31 at Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg.

It was an enthralling first half as neither side was able to wrestle control, with Lombard exchanging early penalties with his Dragons counterpart Davies before both sides notched two tries apiece before the half-hour mark.

Fullback Jordan Williams crashed over in the corner for the Dragons before Lombard hit back for the Emirates Lions with an opportunistic score.

Ntlabakanye then rumbled over for the hosts amid a well-constructed maul, but scrumhalf Rhodri Williams dotted down in response for the Welsh region after a sniping break from close range.

The Dragons went into halftime with the advantage as Rhodri Williams made another clever break and found Davies with an offload, who crossed and converted to put the visitors 24-17 up.

But after the break, the momentum swung back in the Emirates Lions’ favour with van der Merwe crossing twice within four minutes, the first created by a smart kick from replacement flyhalf Jordan Hendrikse, and the second by a surging run from flanker Jaco Kriel.

However, the Dragons found a response once again as Dixon wriggled over on 58 minutes after more good work from Rhodri Williams.

Both sides had chances to snatch victory late on, with Davies off-target with a drop-goal before Hendrikse came close with a penalty goal from halfway in the final act of the game. Both sides took three points from the contest thanks to bonus points for tries scored.

The Emirates Lions will enjoy home comforts again next weekend when they host Stade Français Paris in Round 2 on Friday, with the Dragons entertaining Section Paloise a week today.

Emirates Lions: Tries: Gianni Lombard, Asenathi Ntlabakanye, Edwill Van Der Merwe (2). Conversions: Gianni Lombard (2), Jordan Hendrikse (2). Penalty: Gianni Lombard.
Dragons RFC: Tries: Sam Davies, Jordan Williams, Rhodri Williams, Jack Dixon. Conversions: Sam Davies (4). Penalty: Sam Davies.


Emirates Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Rabz Maxwane, 13 Sango Xamlashe,12 Zander du Plessis, 11 Edwill van der Merwe, 10 Gianni Lombard, 9 Andre Warner, 8 Emmanuel Tshituka, 7 Darrien Landsberg, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Reinhard Nothnagel (captain), 4 Ruben Schoeman, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 PJ Botha, 1 Sti Sithole. Replacements: 16 Jaco Visagie, 17 JP Smith, 18 Asenathi Ntlabakanye, 19 Ruan Venter, 20 Sibusiso Sangweni, 21 Sanele Nohamba, 22 Jordan Hendrikse, 23 Rynhardt Jonker.

Dragons RFC: 15. Jordan Williams, 14. Jared Rosser, 13. Sio Tomkinson, 12. Jack Dixon, 11. Ashton Hewitt, 10. Sam Davies, 9. Rhodri Williams, 8. Ross Moriarty, 7. Harrison Keddie (c), 6. Matthew Screech, 5. Ben Carter, 4. Joe Davies, 3. Chris Coleman, 2. Bradley Roberts, 1. Rhodri Jones. Replacements: 16. Brodie Coghlan, 17. Rob Evans, 18. Lloyd Fairbrother, 19. Aaron Wainwright, 20. Ben Fry, 21. Lewis Jones, 22. Will Reed, 23. Steff Hughes.