It was clear from the outset that the men from Johannesburg were keen to give the ball air and play as much rugby as possible in their final match of the season, but mistakes also crept into their game, which probably cost them valuable momentum at times.
Be that as it may, they still scored three tries to one and defended very well to sign off the season in style, while the Dragons were relegated to their 15th defeat of the campaign, with their discipline and execution letting them down at crucial stages of the game.
Despite putting their hosts under pressure in the scrums, the Emirates Lions’ defensive systems were tested early in the match. When they got a chance, Sibusiso Sangweni (flanker) went over, but it wasn’t awarded as Matt More (centre) was judged to have transgressed at an earlier ruck.
Moments later, with the game losing some structure, Rio Dyer (wing) scored the first try of the match from an intercept in the visitors’ 22.
The Emirates Lions then took a 7-5 lead in the 29th minute when impressive wing Edwill van der Merwe went over untouched and under the uprights from a sublime set play off the back of another strong scrum.
Dragons flyhalf Will Reed, who missed the conversion earlier, added two penalty goals late in the first half to give his side a four-point lead at the break.
It was short-lived however as the Emirates Lions came out roaring after the break, with two of their big men, Ruan Venter (lock) and Ruan Dreyer (prop), crossing for typical forward tries in the first 15 minutes of the second half.
Venter scored off the back of a quick attacking ball and ran a great angle to round off, while Dreyer’s try was down to pure power from the Emirates Lions’ pack. Jordan Hendrikse (flyhalf) converted both to put the visitors in command at 21-11.
That is how it stayed until the end as both teams tried hard, but ultimately failed to breach their opponents’ defensive line, but “winning” the second half by 14-0 was more than enough for the Emirates Lions.
Dragons 11 (11) – Try: Rio Dyer. Penalty goals: Will Reed (2).
Emirates Lions 21 (7) – Tries: Edwill van der Merwe, Ruan Venter, Ruan Dreyer. Conversions: Jordan Hendrikse (3).