KIMBERLEY – The Golden Lions weathered a second-half storm from Griquas to keep their slim hopes alive of qualifying for the Currie Cup semi-finals on Friday night.
It appeared as if the Lions were going to run away with it when they led 24-0 at halftime, but a spirited comeback saw the home side score two quick tries to get to within 10 points.
The Lions, though, showed good composure in the closing stages to grab a bonus-point 34-17 victory in Kimberley and move off the bottom of the log into third position.
In the initial passages of play, it was the rush defence of Griquas that caught the eye. They closed down the Lions attack, which saw some big hits dished out in midfield.
Springbok centre Rohan Janse van Rensburg copped quite a few of those, and it looked like there was no way through for Swys de Bruin’s team.
The Lions had to rely on a Griquas mistake to score their first try, as the home team lost the ball on attack, with the visitors kicking it through in the 13th minute.
Lions scrumhalf Marco Jansen van Vuren was brought down just short of the line, but the ball was worked back for an unmarked flank Cyle Brink in the right-hand corner.
The men from Johannesburg nearly had another five-pointer two minutes later as another Griquas knock-on was pounced on, but an accidental offside saw the touchdown disallowed.
The Lions soon worked out that if there wasn’t any space out wide, there would be gaps up the middle, and that’s how they created their second try.
From a lineout on the 22m line, the forwards kept the ball and set a maul, and they got to within five metres before flank Kwagga Smith darted over down the blindside.
The Lions were still battling to find their rhythm, though, against the tough-tackling Griquas, and they had to wait for another 14 minutes before scoring their try, when Van Vuren took a quick tap penalty and raced away.
The Lions had the better of the exchanges after halftime, but weren’t able to increase their lead, with No 8 Ryan Kankowski losing control of the ball as he tried to dot down in the 52nd minute.
But Griquas stepped up their intensity in the final quarter, with replacement back Kyle Steyn forcing his way over from a five-metre scrum in the 61st minute, and then captain and fullback AJ Coertzen finished off a brilliant counter-attack sparked by Eric Zana two minutes later.
When George Whitehead banged over a long-range penalty with 13 minutes to go, it was anybody’s game, with the Lions leading 24-17.
The Joburg outfit, though, produced some courageous defensive hits despite a marauding Griquas attack, with Van der Walt slotting a penalty to extend their lead.
They would’ve been happy with just the win, but during injury time, they got the bonus point when flyhalf Ashlon Davids pulled off a delightful chip over the top for Janse van Rensburg to gather and score.
Griquas 17 – Tries: Kyle Steyn, AJ Coertzen. Conversions: George Whitehead (2). Penalty: Whitehead (1).
Lions 34 – Tries: Cyle Brink, Kwagga Smith, Marco Jansen van Vuren, Rohan Janse van Rensburg. Conversions: Jaco van der Walt (4). Penalties: Van der Walt (2).
African News Agency (ANA)