Lions thrash Kings

Despite being reduced to 14 men for 49 minutes the Lions still thrashed the Southern Kings 54-10 on Monday morning to keep the dogfight against the Crusaders for top honours on the Super Rugby leaderboard alive.

The Lions were 12-3 up when hooker Robbie Coetzee was sent off in the 31st minute for kneeing an opponent in the head at a ruck. They scored six more tries while down to 14 men in a scintillating performance to keep the pressure on the unbeaten Crusaders who sit on 59 points. The Lions, who have also played 13 games but have suffered one loss, rest on 56 points.

 Flanker Kwagga Smith collected two tries and the Lions ultimately overran the Kings by eight tries to one for a bonus-point win.

``To play with 14 men ... is extremely tough but we showed some character," Lions captain Warren Whiteley said. ``We had to adjust a bit after halftime, being down to 14 men, but I think the guys switched on really well."

The Johannesburg-based Lions secured a 10th straight win and have an easier run home. They meet the lowly Sunwolves and the Sharks in their remaining games before the finals series, while the Crusaders have to face the Highlanders and the Hurricanes - the latter game is in Wellington against the defending champions.

South Africa's Super Rugby teams now have a month-long break to accommodate the June internationals.

Lock Andries Ferreira and wing Courtnall Skosan put the Lions in control with early tries before Coetzee responded to a shoulder charge by Kings flanker Chris Cloete in a ruck by hitting him in the head with his knee. Coetzee saw red, and Cloete was yellow-carded.

Smith raced away for his first try right at the end of the first half, when both teams were reduced to 14 men.

Despite playing the entire second half with just 14 men, the Lions still attacked with zest, and often from deep inside their own half, scoring three more tries before the Kings could reply.

Replacement hooker Malcolm Marx went over in a rolling maul at the start of the second half before the Lions turned on the style, with Smith starting a move that saw Ruan Dreyer set up fellow prop Jacques van Rooyen to score under the crossbar.

Smith's second started way down inside the team's own 22 and capped a run of 28 unanswered points by the 14-man Lions.

Against the run of play, Kings centre Luzuko Vulindlu intercepted for their only try of the game in the 60th minute.

The Lions created two more tries, and kept going right to the end. Replacement prop Corne Fourie was twice involved in a breakout, eventually providing the final pass for scrumhalf Faf de Klerk to score. After the fulltime hooter, the Lions decided to attack from their own tryline, resulting in fullback Andries Coetzee going nearly 100m to score.


Photo: Getty Images (Lions loose forward Kwagga Smith scored two tries as his side walloped the hapless Kings 54-10 in Johannesburg on Monday morning).