The Lions claimed a 54-10 bonus-point win against the Kings in Johannesburg on Sunday to secure the Africa 2 conference title. JON CARDINELLI reports.
The Lions have taken an unassailable lead at the top of the Africa 2 conference, and also at the head of the South African group log. With two matches remaining, the Lions (56 log points) cannot be surpassed by the next best side in Africa 2, namely the Sharks (42).
The hosts were forced to compete with 14 men for as many as 50 minutes. The Kings weren't good enough to make their numerical advantage count, though.
The Kings lost a man after nine minutes when Irne Herbst impeded cynically at a maul on his own tryline. The Lions scored their first points, through Andries Ferreira, shortly after that transgression.
Elton Jantjies produced an accurate kick-pass in the 19th minute, which found Warren Whiteley on the wing. The Lions captain showed good hands to collect the kick and then offload to Courtnall Skosan for the hosts' second try.
The Lions looked to be on course for a massive victory at that point. Their charge was checked, albeit briefly, when Robbie Coetzee was shown a red card in the 31st minute.
Chris Cloete was shown yellow for his reckless cleanout at the ruck. At the same breakdown, Coetzee's knee made contact with Cloete's head. Referee Jaco Peyper had no choice but to send Coetzee away for an early shower.
The Kings had a terrific opportunity to finish the half on a high when Ntabeni Dukisa made an intercept on his own 22m line. Skosan chased the Kings player down, though, and the Lions forced a turnover. After the half-time hooter, Kwagga Smith stepped around the last defender to ensure his side went to the break with a 19-3 lead.
The Lions continued to back themselves at the set pieces, despite the one-man disadvantage. Coetzee's replacement, Malcolm Marx, scored immediately after half-time, following a well-executed lineout maul by the hosts. Marx went on to have a big game with ball in hand and at the rucks.
Further tries by Jacques van Rooyen and Smith (his second) took the Lions out to a commanding lead. Meanwhile, the Kings only managed to breach a 14-man Lions defence as late as the 61st minute when Luzuko Vulindlu went over for a try.
The Lions had the final say, though, with Faf de Klerk and Andries Coetzee crossing the line to boost the hosts' tally beyond the 50-mark.
Lions – Tries: Andries Ferreira, Courtnall Skosan, Kwagga Smith (2), Malcolm Marx, Jacques van Rooyen, Faf de Klerk, Andries Coetzee. Conversions: Elton Jantjies (5), Coetzee (2).
Kings – Try: Luzuko Vulindlu. Conversion: Pieter-Steph de Wet. Penalty: De Wet.
Lions – 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley (c), 7 Ruan Ackermann, 6 Kwagga Smith, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Robbie Coetzee, 1 Jacques van Rooyen.
Subs: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Johannes Jonker, 18, Corné Fourie, 19 Lourens Erasmus, 20 Jaco Kriel, 21 Dillon Smit, 22 Jacques Nel, 23 Anthony Volmink/Sylvian Mahuza.
Kings – 15 Malcolm Jaer, 14 Alshaun Bock, 13 Berton Klaasen, 12 Luzuko Vulindlu, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Pieter-Steyn de Wet, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Tyler Paul, 7 Stefan Willemse, 6 Chris Cloete, 5 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 4 Irne Herbst, 3 Ross Geldenhuys (c), 2 Martin Bezuidenhout, 1 Schalk van der Merwe.
Subs: 16 Kurt Haupt, 17 Dayan van der Westhuizen, 18 Mzamo Majola, 19 Lubabalo 'Giant' Mtyanda, 20 Thembelani Bholi, 21 Stefan Ungerer, 22 Ntabeni Dukisa, 23 Stokkies Hanekom.
Photo: Anne Laing/HM Images