• Lions survive Griquas fightback

    The Golden Lions scored seven tries in their 48-43 win against Griquas at Ellis Park on Saturday, writes SIMON BORCHARDT.

    Originally scheduled for Friday night, this Currie Cup match was moved to Saturday to serve as a curtain-raiser to the Super Rugby semi-final between the Lions and Hurricanes. With the two competitions bizarrely overlapping, the Golden Lions were once again forced to field their Provincial Rugby Challenge team, as they did in their defeat to the Pumas last weekend.

    This was another high-scoring Currie Cup encounter, with Griquas' defence (they completed only 84% of their tackle attempts) costing them dearly. The Lions enjoyed 71% of the possession, but ended up having to make more tackles than their opponents (165 to 105), as the visitors fought back in the second half.

    The Lions led 45-21 after 50 minutes and looked set to claim a big win, but three tries for Griquas set up a thrilling finish, with a penalty after the hooter securing the win for the hosts.

    The Lions started the game strongly, with James Venter going over from a lineout driving maul. Griquas, though, responded immediately when Christiaan Meyer sniped over from the back of a lineout driving maul, and George Whitehead's conversion put them ahead 7-5.

    The Lions' second try came soon after, when Dillon Smit took a quick penalty tap, sprinted ahead and put Jacques Nel away. This time Shaun Reynolds kicked the conversion, only to miss a penalty minutes later. 

    Griquas' best moment of the first half came when they won a tighthead scrum on their 22 and attacked down the blindside. Tertius Kruger found Enver Brandt, who passed back inside to Kruger, with the outside centre beating a defender and then offloading in the tackle to put Meyer away.

    The Lions hit back with two converted tries that gave them a 26-14 lead after 28 minutes. The first began from deep inside their half and finished with Jarryd Sage darting inside and outside, before throwing a dummy pass that fooled the defence. The second came after some good stepping from Smit, who took play into the 22 before offloading in the tackle, and Reynolds' perfectly timed pass put Aphiwe Dyantyi over in the left-hand corner. 

    Whitehead got Griquas back to within two points with a penalty goal and a 75m interception try, but the Lions scored their fifth try in the last play of the half when Jaco van der Walt broke through two poor tackle attempts to make it 33-24.

    The hosts struck again soon after the break. Reynolds' cross-kick was tapped inside by Madosh Tambwe to Van der Walt, who gave the try-scoring pass back to Tambwe. Three minutes later, and the right wing sprinted 50m to grab his second and extend the lead to 21.

    Griquas stopped the rot with a try from Ederies Arendse, and Brandt then intercepted a pass on halfway to score a try under the crossbar that reduced the gap to nine, with 20 minutes remaining.

    The visitors began to dominate possession and were rewarded in the 75th minute when a 26-phase attack finished with Renier Botha placing the ball against the base of the left-hand post. Whitehead's conversion made it a two-point ball game.

    But the Lions were awarded a penalty in the last play of the game, and Reynolds kicked it through the posts to wrap up the win.

    Golden Lions – Tries: James Venter, Jacques Nel, Jarryd Sage, Aphiwe Dyantyi, Jaco van der Walt, Madosh Tambwe (2). Conversions: Shaun Reynolds (5). Penalty: Reynolds.
    Griquas – Tries: Christiaan Meyer (2), George Whitehead, Ederies Arendse, Enver Brandt, Renier Botha. Conversions: Whitehead (5). Penalty: Whitehead.

    Golden Lions – 15 Jaco van der Walt, 14 Madosh Tambwe, 13 Jacques Nel, 12 Jarryd Sage, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Shaun Reynolds, 9 Dillon Smit, 8 Ryan Kankowski (c), 7 Robert Kruger, 6 James Venter, 5 Rhyno Herbst, 4 Marvin Orie, 3 Justin Ackerman, 2 Pieter Jansen 1 Sti Sithole.
    Subs: 16 Mike Willemse, 17 Andrew Beerwinkel, 18 Bobby de Wee, 19 Hacjivah Dayimani, 20 Fabian Booysen, 21 Bradley Thain, 22 Stokkies Hanekom.

    Griquas – 15 Eric Zana, 14 AJ Coertzen (c), 13 Tertius Kruger, 12 Clinton Swart, 11 Enver Brandt, 10 George Whitehead, 9 Christiaan Meyer, 8 Jonathan Janse van Rensburg, 7 Sias Koen, 6 Wendal Wehr, 5 Pieter Janse van Vuren, 4 FP Pelser, 3 Ewald van der Westhuizen, 2 Marius Fourie, 1 Liam Hendricks.
    Subs: 16 AJ Le Roux, 17 Devon Martinus, 18 Mzwanele Zito, 19 RJ Liebenberg, 20 Renier Botha, 21 Ederies Arendse, 22 Johnathan Francke.

    Photo: Dirk Kotze/Gallo Images

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    Simon Borchardt