The Golden Lions claimed their eighth successive win in this year's Currie Cup when they smashed the Free State Cheetahs 73-31. SIMON BORCHARDT reports.
The Lions are now nine points clear of the Blue Bulls at the log of the log with two rounds to play. They will host a semi-final and almost certainly the final should they get there.
The Cheetahs remain fourth on the log, four points ahead of the Sharks, who lost to the Bulls on Friday night.
As is usually the case with these 'cat fights', there was no shortage of try-scoring entertainment in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
The Lions raced into a 10-0 lead after as many minutes, following a penalty from Marnitz Boshoff and a converted try to Courtnall Skosan, who burst away down the left touchline.
It didn't take the Cheetahs long to respond, with Sergeal Petersen being brought to ground just before the tryline only to get back to his feet and score, despite the best efforts of three defenders.
But the Lions quickly regained control of proceedings when Skosan scored his second try in the same corner, and Warren Whiteley put Steph de Wit away for a score that made it 24-5 at the end of the first quarter.
Both teams then got tries from lineout driving mauls, with the two No 6s, Jaco Kriel and Vince Jobo, getting over.
The Lions suffered a setback on the stroke of half-time, when Whiteley was yellow-carded for a ruck infringement. The Cheetahs kicked for touch, set up the driving maul, but were held up over the line by committed defence.
The visitors were able to score a fifth try early in the second half, despite playing with 14 men, when Howard Mnisi brushed off a couple of tackles following a good break by Marnitz Boshoff.
But the Cheetahs then made their numerical advantage count, with Jobo going over twice in the space of five minutes to secure his hat-trick and make it 38-24.
The Lions took charge once again when Whiteley returned to the field and it was he who scored in the left-hand corner in the 56th minute. Jaco Kriel then broke away from a linout to score his second try and take his team to the 50-point mark, before Jaco van der Walt took advantage of some poor defence from Raymond Rhule to go under the crossbar.
While Francois Venter scored a late interception try for the Cheetahs, the Lions would finish strongly, with Kwagga Smith and Anthony Volmink dotting down to complete the rout.
Free State Cheetahs – Tries: Sergeal Petersen, Vince Jobo (3), Francois Venter. Conversions: Sias Ebersohn (2), Fred Zeilinga.
Golden Lions – Tries: Courtnall Skosan (2), Steph de Wit, Jaco Kriel (2), Howard Mnisi, Warren Whiteley, Jaco van der Walt, Kwagga Smith, Anthony Volmink. Conversions: Marnitz Boshoff (10). Penalty: Boshoff.
Free State Cheetahs – 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Francois Venter (c), 12 Tertius Kruger, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Sias Ebersohn, 9 Zee Mkhabela, 8 Gerhard Olivier, 7 Niell Jordaan, 6 Vince Jobo, 5 Reniel Hugo, 4 Freddy Ngoza, 3 Luan de Bruin, 2 Jacques du Toit, 1 Teunis Nieuwoudt.
Subs: 16 Neil Rautenbach, 17 BG Uys, 18 Willem Serfontein, 19 De Wet Kruger, 20 Ryno Benjamin, 21 Shaun Venter, 22 Fred Zeilinga.
Golden Lions – 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Stokkies Hanekom, 12 Howard Mnisi, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Marnitz Boshoff, 9 Ross Cronjé, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Steph de Wit, 6 Jaco Kriel (c), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Lourens Erasmus, 3 Julian Redelinghuys, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Jacques van Rooyen.
Subs: 16 Mark Pretorius, 17 Ruan Dreyer, 18 Fabian Booysen, 19 Kwagga Smith, 20 Jaco van der Walt, 21 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 22 Anthony Volmink.
Photo: Charl Devenish/Gallo Images