Late Lions penalty upsets Western Province

The Sharks will play the Cheetahs in Durban and the Blue Bulls will face Western Province at Newlands in the two Currie Cup semi-finals next weekend after the Golden Lions beat log-leading Western Province 27-25 in a pulsating match at Coca-Cola Park in Johannesburg on Saturday.

 

The result saw Western Province, who went into the weekend’s round of matches as log-leaders, relegated to second place with the Sharks topping the log following their bonus point 45-30 over Griquas in Kimberley earlier on Saturday.

 

As an advertisement for the game of rugby which, through Sevens was allowed into the Olympic fold on Friday, this was absolutely outstanding.

 

Yes, there were many mistakes, but the ferocious tackling, the hard running and good support made this a match to savour.

 

The teams turned around with Western Province a mere three points ahead at 20-17 after it seemed that they would run away with it just after the first quarter.

 

By then the visitors had scored two long distance tries by Juan de Jongh and Joe Pietersen who also converted both and kicked a penalty.

 

At 17-3 things didn’t look good for the Lions who had played some nervous rugby, rushing their passes and taking one or two doubtful options.

 

There were also too many turnovers from the Lions, both because of handling errors and on the ground where Province were better in the first half.

 

That led to WP’s first two tries, both from far out and also showed up the Lions’ vulnerability when the ball went wide.

 

The Lions’ lineouts were also not as clinical as coach Hans Coetzee would’ve wanted it. But then, just before the half hour mark, the Lions threw one attack after the other at WP.

 

They kept it close but the defence held. WP slowed down the ball effectively but, at last, the Lions decided to take it wide and centre Doppies la Grange dotted down as he was tackled.

 

Western Province again provided the Lions with some anxious moments and had a second penalty by Pietersen to show for their efforts.

 

But, on the halftime whistle, after another sequence of rucks where referee Marius Jonker had his arm out for a Lions advantage, La Grange took the ball at the back of the ruck and dived over the ruck bodies for Kruger to make it 20-17 with his conversion.

 

Tempers boiled over from time to time in a match which started with a niggle and had some unpleasantness throughout.

 

The visitors started off the second half obviously intent to get that win and the bonus point they needed to finish on top of the Currie Cup log.

 

For the first ten minutes of the second half the Lions all but capitulated – and then they changed the pattern of defence into attack.

 

The Lions won a lineout, set up a maul in midfield and then moved the ball to the right with quick hands for Dusty Noble to dot down and Kruger to convert (24-20 to the Lions after 53 minutes). Western Province then came back with a vengeance.

 

When Francois Louw went over after sustained attack following a ruck/maul on the Lions tryline, even with the conversion missed WP were ahead – and it looked bleak for the Lions.

 

It was six minutes later that Chris Jonck put the Lions ahead for the remaining time with his first kick of the match.

 

With eight minutes to go, the Lions slowed the play down to the frustration of the visitors and held out after a turnover for deserved and exciting victory.

 

Final Score G

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