Unbeaten Lions fight past Bulls in Currie Cup

The Lions extended their unbeaten Currie Cup run to four matches by securing a hard fought 36-27 victory over the Blue Bulls in Pretoria on Saturday.


The Johannesburg side are now the only team in the competition with a clean sheet after the Sharks and Western Province lost their respective matches at the weekend.


They have also moved four points clear of the second-placed Sharks at the top of the standings.


Despite trailing 19-16 at half-time, the Lions showed great character to keep the hosts off their try line in the dying stages of the match.


Both sides struggled in the early stages to adapt to referee Jaco Taute’s interpretation at the breakdowns and the visitors were first to benefit when flyhalf Elton Jantjies opened the scoring from a subsequent penalty.


Jantjies extended his team’s early lead to six points after Bulls centre Francois Venter failed to roll away in time.


The Bulls bounced back with a try by Springbok hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle who sneaked around the edge of a ruck to open his team’s account, but Francois Brummer missed the conversion to leave them trailing by a point.


Brummer’s goal kicking cost his side dearly on the night and would end up missing four shots at the posts.


He was successful, however, with two attempts midway through the first half, giving his side an 11-6 lead.


The first moment of excitement in the match came when Akona Ndungane burst through the Lions’ line.


The winger’s pace caught the visitors off guard, and after he recycled the ball, centre Stefan Watermeyer dived over for the first try.


A snappy response by the Lions from the kick-off, however, which coincided with some poor defence from their hosts, allowed skipper Josh Strauss to wipe out the advantage.


Despite Strauss’ converted try, the Bulls managed to enter the half-time break with a three-point lead after Brummer converted his third penalty in the dying stages of the opening stanza.


As was the case in the first half, the Lions were the first to get points on the board in the second period with a Jantjies penalty shortly after centre Waylon Murray was stretchered off the field.


While Murray was forced to watch the match from the sidelines, the home side lost a key player, lock Flip van der Merwe, who was sin-binned for his team’s repeated infringements at the tackle area.


Six minutes after Jantjies levelled the scores at 19-19, wing Lionel Mapoe set up the Lions’ second try of the evening.


Mapoe bounced off two Bulls defenders before off-loading to fullback Michael Killian who dived over in the corner.


Brummer kicked one more penalty before the Bulls again lost Van der Merwe.


This time the big lock received a yellow card (which turned red) for a high tackle and was subsequently sent off with a little more than 10 minutes left to play.


The Lions were, however, also forced to complete the match with only 14 players after loose-forward replacement Michael Rhodes was yellow carded for a late charge on Bulls hooker Gary Botha.


The try that sealed victory for the Lions came after they had survived a period of dominance by the hosts.


Scrumhalf Michael Bondesio showed his class by drawing in two defenders before off-loading to Warren Whitley who flicked the ball inside for Killian to dive over for his second try of the match.


Final Score Blue Bulls 27 (19) Golden Lions 36 (16):


Scorers:


Blue Bulls
Tries: Chiliboy Ralepelle, Stefan Watermeyer, Akona Ndungane
Penalties: Francois Brummer (4)


Golden Lions
Tries: Josh Strauss, Michael Killian (2)
Conversions: Elton Jantjies (3
Penalties: Jantjies (5).

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