Lions snatch late win over Province

Fullback Tiaan Swanepoel kicked four penalties to see the Lions claim a last-gasp 22-19 victory over Western Province at Ellis Park on Saturday. DYLAN JACK reports.

The win moves the Lions above the Free State Cheetahs into fourth place on the Currie Cup table and they trail Western Province, who picked up a losing bonus point, by just a single point.

It was a gutsy, if at times workmanlike, comeback from the Lions, who did look the most threatening team with ball in hand in what appeared to be difficult conditions in Johannesburg. Ivan van Rooyen’s side are back in the contest for a playoff spot.

Despite trailing by 10 points at a stage in the second half, the home side was never truly out of the contest, with Swanepoel’s big boot keeping them in the game. The 24-year-old Namibian-born player was making his first Currie Cup start but looked comfortable and confident. Most impressive, of course, was that he slotted a couple of long-range penalties in the first half, one of which coming from well over 60 metres.

By contrast, Province struggled to build any sort of pressure away from the set piece, where Steven Kitshoff was dominant against Ruan Dreyer. Their best passage of play in the first half, where they managed to put six phases together, rewarded them with a penalty which flyhalf Tim Swiel converted to give them a 9-6 lead at the break.

Province’s brightest period came in the second half as they started to build more pressure with the ball by taking it through more phases. The visitors landed a telling blow when Senatla and Nel combined effectively to send the former over for his first try of the campaign.

It was Nel, however, who was probably the impressive player apart from Kitshoff. The 29-year-old was back in his favoured position at outside centre and aside from assisting Senatla, he brought his own defensively as moments later he won a turnover penalty on his own tryline as the Lions started to chase the game.

However, a moment of inspiration from Stean Pienaar drew the Lions level again, as the wing took a quick tap penalty inside the Province 22 and broke through a couple of tackle attempts before reaching over to score.

Questions will have to be asked about the impact of the Province bench, especially as coach John Dobson opted for a six-two split between forwards and backs to ensure they stayed in the contest late on at altitude.

As it turned out, the Lions had the running of WP in the final 15 minutes and were unlucky not to grab another try, instead winning the game as Swanepoel slotted his fourth penalty. It was the second weekend in a row that the Province bench has not provided the impact needed and the Cape side’s hopes of hosting a semi-final, at least on current form, are diminishing quickly.

Lions – Tries: Stean Pienaar. Conversions: Elton Jantjies. Penalties: Swanepoel (4), Jantjies.
Western Province –
Tries: Seabelo Senatla. Conversion: Tim Swiel. Penalties: Swiel (4).

Lions – 15 Tiaan Swanepoel, 14 Stean Pienaar, 13 Wandisile Simelane, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies (c), 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Len Massyn, 7 Vincent Tshituka, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Willem Alberts, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Sti Sithole.
Subs: 16 Jan-Henning Campher, 17 Dylan Smith, 18 Wiehahn Herbst, 19 Reinhard Nothnagel, 20 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 21 Roelof Smit, 22 Morne van den Berg, 23 Dan Kriel.

Western Province – 15 Damian Willemse, 14 Seabelo Senatla, 13 Ruhan Nel, 12 Dan du Plessis, 11 Angelo Davids, 10 Tim Swiel, 9 Godlen Masimla, 8 Juarno Augustus, 7 Ernst van Rhyn, 6 Siya Kolisi (c), 5 JD Schickerling, 4 Salmaan Moerat, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Subs (from): 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Ali Vermaak, 18 Neethling Fouche, 19 David Meihuizen, 20 Marcel Theunissen, 21 Johan du Toit, 22 Paul de Wet, 23 Tristan Leyds.

Photo: @LionsRugbyCo/Twitter

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Dylan Jack