The Golden Lions secured a home semi-final in the Currie Cup after they overcame Griquas 27-26 in an epic clash in Kimberley, writes JOHN GOLIATH.
The Lions moved up to first place in the standings on 22 points after a crucial bonus-point victory in the Northern Cape. The hosts were consoled with two bonus points – one for their four tries and another for losing by less than seven points.
Griquas, who already qualified for the semis in the previous round, have dropped down to second position on 21 points, and face an anxious wait for the result between the Free State Cheetahs and Western Province to see whether they will host the other playoff match.
In the end, this battle came down to a Shaun Reynolds penalty six minutes from time after the lead changed hands on several occasions in the second half.
Griquas will bemoan their slow start which ultimately proved to be the difference. After butchering a try in the opening minutes that started underneath their own posts, they found themselves 19-0 down in the 36th minute after Stean Pienaar, Tyrone Green and Madosh Tambwe crossed the line for the visitors.
They did manage to score just before the break as Gideon van der Merwe went over, and then turned on the style and passion in the second 40 when scores by AJ le Roux and Wilmar Arnoldi gave them the lead for the first time in the match just after the hour mark.
Pienaar was again in the mix as he finished brilliantly five minutes later to give the Lions the lead and a crucial bonus-point try. Van der Merwe was not to be outdone and he scored his second try three minutes later to put the home side in front with 11 minutes to play.
Reynolds would end up spoiling the party with a penalty right in front of the poles to give the Lions the win a home semi-final.
Griquas – Tries: Gideon Van der Merwe (2), AJ le Roux, Wilmar Arnoldi. Conversions: George Whitehead (3).
Golden Lions – Tries: Stean Pienaar (2), Tyrone Green, Madosh Tambwe. Conversions: Shaun Reynolds. Penalty: Reynolds.
Griquas – 15 Anthony Volmink, 14 Ederies Arendse, 13 Michal Haznar, 12 Andre Swarts, 11 Eduan Keyter, 10 George Whitehead, 9 Chriswill September, 8 Neill Jordaan, 7 Sias Koen, 6 Gideon van der Merwe, 5 Victor Sekekete, 4 Ian Groenewald, 3 Ewald van der Westhuizen, 2 AJ le Roux, 1 Mox Mxoli.
Subs: 16 Wilmar Arnoldi, 17 NJ Oosthuizen, 18 Johan Momsen, 19 Conway Pretorius, 20 Christiaan Meyer, 21 Chris Smit, 22 Bjorn Basson, 23 Ruan Kramer.
Golden Lions – 15 Tyrone Green, 14 Madosh Tambwe, 13 Wandisile Simelane, 12 Duncan Matthews, 11 Stean Pienaar, 10 Shaun Reynolds, 9 Ross Cronje (c), 8 Hacjivah Dayimani, 7 Cyle Brink, 6 Marnus Schoeman, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Ruben Schoeman, 3 Jacobie Adriaanse, 2 Pieter Jansen, 1 Sti Sithole.
Subs: 16 Jan-Henning Campher, 17 Dylan Smith, 18 Johannes Jonker, 19 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 20 Len Massyn, 21 Dillon Smit, 22 Jan-Louis la Grange 23 Jamba Ulengo.