The Golden Lions scored eight tries as they romped to an impressive 58-32 win over Western Province at Ellis Park on Friday night. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
The defending champs came into the encounter on the back of a disappointing defeat to the Blue Bulls last weekend, which saw them drop out of the top four, but they clearly had a point to prove.
In a first half where the Lions simply ran rampant, the hosts scored five scintillating tries as they repeatedly punished a porous WP defence (29 missed tackles in the opening stanza) to power into a 37-13 lead at the break.
With the outcome effectively sealed at that point, the Lions battled to maintain the same sort of intensity in the second period, but still scored three tries on their way to an emphatic win.
The result sees the Lions leapfrog their way back into fourth place on the log, while it may well have ended sixth-placed Western Province’s playoff hopes.
The Lions effectively secured the result during a whirlwind opening quarter where they once again illustrated the sort of ball-in-hand brilliance that has set them apart on the South African rugby scene over the last 18 months.
A superb breakout with the first play of the game set the tone for the evening, with Jacques Nel starting and finishing a movement that resulted in the first five-pointer after just 30 seconds of play.
Although Province worked their way back into the contest with a couple of quickfire penalties from Rob du Preez, the Lions responded emphatically as two brilliant multi-phase movements saw first Robbie Coetzee and then Andries Coetzee dot down before the quarter-hour mark.
A second penalty from Jaco van der Walt soon after suddenly sent the Lions into a commanding 23-6 lead, and from there it was always going to be a long way back for a Province team that simply couldn’t cope with the Lions’ irrepressible running game.
There was a brief glimmer of hope for the visitors when Leolin Zas went over for Province’s opening try in the 33rd minute to reduce the deficit to 10 points, but the Lions responded with two more tries via JP du Preez and Rohan Janse van Rensburg before the break to establish a virtually unassailable 37-13 lead.
That advantage was extended to 38 points after Anthony Volmink and Kwagga Smith added to the Lions’ try tally before the hour mark, but WP did hit back with tries to Jacques Vermeulen and Dewaldt Duvenage to add some respectability to the scoreline.
Smith and Vermeulen both wrapped up a brace of tries before full time, but it was the Lions who celebrated an emphatic victory that has reignited their title defence.
Golden Lions – Tries: Jacques Nel, Robbie Coetzee, Andries Coetzee, JP du Preez, Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Anthony Volmink, Kwagga Smith (2). Conversions: Jaco van der Walt (6). Penalties: Van der Walt (2).
Western Province – Tries: Leolin Zas, Jacques Vermeulen (2), Dewaldt Duvenage. Conversions: Rob du Preez (3). Penalties: Du Preez (2).
Golden Lions – 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Selom Gavor, 13 Jacques Nel, 12 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Jaco van der Walt, 9 Ross Cronjé (c), 8 Fabian Booysen, 7 Ruan Ackermann, 6 Kwagga Smith, 5 Lourens Erasmus, 4 JP du Preez, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Robbie Coetzee, 1 Dylan Smith.
Subs: 16 Akker van der Merwe, 17 Jacques van Rooyen, 18 Andries Ferreira, 19 Cyle Brink, 20 Ruaan Lerm/Stef de Wit, 21 Ashlon Davids, 22 Howard Mnisi.
Western Province – 15 Cheslin Kolbe, 14 Werner Kok, 13 EW Viljoen, 12 Johnny Kotze, 11 Leolin Zas, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Kobus van Dyk, 7 Jurie van Vuuren, 6 Rynhardt Elstadt, 5 Chris van Zyl (c), 4 Jan de Klerk, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Michael Willemse, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg.
Subs: 16 Neil Rautenbach, 17 Alistair Vermaak, 18 JP Smith, 19 Jacques Vermeulen, 20 Eital Bredenkamp, 21 Dewaldt Duvenage, 22 Scott van Breda.
Photo: Lee Warren/Gallo Images