Currie Cup / 31 August 2019, 4:00pm / Jacques van der Westhuyzen at Ellis Park
The Lions produced a workman-like performance to edge the Griquas in a tight-fought semi-final here on Saturday and qualify for the 2019 Currie Cup final.
In an error-strewn match, that never delivered any great highlights, the Lions – who were last champions in 2015 – scored four tries to the one by Griquas.
The Lions simply had more fire-power over the course of the 80 minutes while their defence also stood firm in the face of some tough questions asked by the men from Kimberley. The Lions will face either Free State of the Sharks in the final next Saturday.
The Lions were quick out the blocks with winger Madosh Tambwe getting his team’s first try as early as the seventh minute. He did well to power through three defenders close to the touchline after the Lions had countered from deep and fullback Tyrone Green had kicked well into space.
But it wasn’t long before Griquas were on the board; centre Chris Smit finishing off well after his flyhalf George Whitehead’s penalty kick had struck the post and bounced back into play.
Three minutes later it was the turn of Lions try-machine Stean Pienaar to go over. He finished off well after his centres Duncan Matthews and Wandisile Simelane had done well to send him on his way.
Whitehead then struck back-to-back penalties to get his side to within a point of the Lions, but the visitors were really just hanging on at that stage. They were battling in the scrums, they gave away several penalties and they were being asked to make tackle after tackle.
The Lions were the better team by some distance, and in the last 10 minutes before the break they literally set up camp inside the Griquas 22m area. They kicked three penalties to touch rather than have shots at goal, but couldn’t get across the line with their maul, their poor handling costing them dearly.
But just before half-time, after a fourth straight lineout win, they finally managed to get over, through No 8 Hacjivah Dayimani.
It was Griquas though who started the second half with more energy and hunger and they certainly asked plenty of questions of the Lions defence. They bashed away with the forwards and they ran hard and fast out wide, but after not finding a way over the tryline almost 20 minutes into the half they opted to kick a penalty by Whitehead. It closed the gap to five points and everything to play for in the final 20 minutes.
The eight-point buffer was quickly restored though when Reynolds knocked over a penalty for the Lions, which took them to a 24-16 lead.
Whitehead responded with a fourth penalty with 10 minutes to go to keep Griquas in the match, but in what turned out to be a real ding-dong battle, that was cancelled out almost immediately by a Reynolds three-pointer. And, with four minutes to play, the Lions ended Griquas’s hopes of causing a major upset in Joburg when Marnus Schoeman went over from a lineout drive for a converted try.