Lions save best for last

The Lions put together their best performance of the season to crush the Cheetahs 60-25 at Ellis Park on Saturday, writes BRENTON CHELIN.

Both teams threw caution to the wind, giving the ball plenty of air in an exhibition of running rugby as 11 tries were scored, eight by the hosts. The Lions were better in every aspect of the game, though, dominating the set pieces, winning the battle up front and cutting the more-fancied Cheetahs backs to shreds. The defeat leaves the Cheetahs at the foot of the South African conference, with just four wins from a disappointing season.

It was the side from Bloemfontein who got things started when the man-of-the-moment Willie le Roux darted over to score under the poles, but it would be their only try of the opening half.

The Lions responded with three five-pointers of their own in a breathless 10-minute period midway through the first half. Lionel Mapoe was the first to cross the whitewash for the Lions after some great work from Elton Jantjies and Stokkies Hanekom. Ross Cronjé then grabbed his first Super Rugby try, following more poor defence from the Cheetahs, before Mapoe went over for his second courtesy of some great interplay between backs and forwards. The Lions held a comfortable 27-13 lead at the break.

The Cheetahs started the second period well after some stern words from Naka Drotské at half-time, with Cornal Hendricks going over thanks to a brilliant individual finish. The Lions wrapped up the bonus point after Coenie Oosthuizen was sent to the bin for numerous scrumming infringements. Ill-discipline was costing the Cheetahs as Johan Goosen joined Oosthuizen in the bin for a professional foul in the build-up to a Warren Whiteley try. There was still time for Mapoe to seal his hat-trick with a wonderful counter-attacking try before Corné Fourie capped things off in style, leaving Le Roux red-faced after a cheeky show-and-go.

Lions – Tries: Lionel Mapoe (3), Ross Cronjé, Robbie Coetzee, Warren Whiteley, Andries Coetzee, Corné Fourie. Conversions: Elton Jantjies (7). Penalties: Jantjies (2).
Cheetahs – Tries: Willie le Roux, Cornal Hendricks (2). Conversions: Johan Goosen (2). Penalties: Goosen (2).

Lions – 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Lionel Mapoe, 13 Stokkies Hanekom, 12 Alwyn Hollenbach, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronjé, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Warwick Tecklenburg, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Franco Mostert, 3 Julian Redelinghuys, 2 Robbie Coetzee, 1 Schalk van der Merwe.
Subs: 16 Armand van der Merwe, 17 Corné Fourie, 18 Ruan Dreyer, 19 Willie Britz, 20 Derick Minnie, 21 Faf de Klerk, 22 Marnitz Boshoff, 23 Courtnall Skosan.

Cheetahs – 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Ryno Benjamin, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Teboho Mohoje, 6 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 5 Francois Uys, 4 Lood de Jager, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Adriaan Strauss (c), 1 Caylib Oosthuizen.
Subs: 16 Kevin Stevens, 17 Luan de Bruin, 18 Carl Wegner, 19 Jean Cook, 20 Henco Venter, 21 Shaun Venter, 22 Elgar Watts, 23 Hennie Daniller.

Any number of players could've won this for the Lions. Schalk van der Merwe destroyed Coenie Oosthuizen in the scrum, Elton Jantjies was flawless with the boot and the loose trio were involved in everything once again. In the end it was Lionel Mapoe who was on hand to grab a hat-trick and claim the Leatherman Player of the Match.

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Photo: Anne Laing/HSM Images