Lions edge past Griquas to secure Currie Cup home semi-final
Flyhalf Shaun Reynolds kicked a 75th-minute penalty to help the Lions edge Griquas by a point and qualify for the Currie Cup semi-finals.
For the fourth time in six matches in the competition, the Lions snuck home by two points or less.
Earlier in their campaign, they beat the Pumas 38-37, Western Province 30-28 and Free State 26-24.
And before Saturday’s close win, they’d come unstuck by narrow margins against the Bulls and Sharks.
In a ding-dong battle, the Lions raced into a commanding position just before halftime just to trail with 10 minutes to go, before Reynolds knocked over the penalty that mattered.
Promising young wing Stean Pienaar had a game to remember for the Lions as he scored a try in each half, the first coming as early as the seventh minute, when he intercepted a pass by a Griquas player and ran in untouched.
Fullback Tyrone Green was next to cross the tryline, in the 24th minute, after a period of strong play by the Lions.
And not long after he’d scored, Madosh Tambwe got the Lions’ third after some slick handling by Hacjivah Dayimani and Green to send the wing on his way.
But just when it looked like the visitors to Kimberley would keep their hosts pointless at the break, flank Gideon van der Merwe grabbed a converted try for his team.
It was the first time during the competition that the Lions had led at the break.
Griquas stormed back into the match after halftime thanks to tries by AJ le Roux and Wilmar Arnoldi and with just under 20 minutes to go the Lions lead by a mere two points.
All the momentum was with the men from Kimberley, but against the run of play, Pienaar got his second try for the Lions after some swift footwork close to the line and the Lions led again.
Then from the restart, Van der Merwe got his second five-pointer for Griquas after a powerful run by prop Mox Mxoli to set up the try, but captain and flyhalf George Whitehead missed the conversion from the touchline, which would prove fatal.
It meant Griquas lead by only two with 10 minutes to play, and the Lions would go on to later win the penalty and kick the three points which would see them home.
It was heartbreak for Griquas, but delight and relief for the Lions, who’ll host a semi-final at Ellis Park on Saturday.
Griquas 26 – Tries: Gideon van der Merwe (2), AJ le Roux, Wilmar Arnoldi. Conversions: George Whitehead (3).
Lions (19) 27 – Tries: Stean Pienaar (2), Tyrone Green, Madosh Tambwe. Conversions: Shaun Reynolds (2). Penalty: Reynolds (1).@jacq_west