Lions keep semi-final hopes alive with victory over Western Province
The Golden Lions showed remarkable resilience to overturn a 10-point deficit into a much needed 29-20 win against Western Province‚ keeping their Currie Cup semi-final flame blazing in the moody Johannesburg spring weather.
The Lions were trailing 20-10 in the 56th minute but three last quarter tries from Aphiwe Dyantyi‚ Robert Kruger and Rohan Janse van Rensburg salvaged their faltering play-off hopes.
Going into the game‚ the Lions were at the bottom of the log with 25 points and a points difference of -85.
They needed a big win ahead of next week's final set of round robin matches that will determine the semi-final positions.
The Sharks‚ who host Western Province next week‚ are already guaranteed a home semi-final.
The loss came at a wrong time for Western Province as the Sharks have been far from generous with their 10-match unbeaten run.
The Lions muscled into fourth place with 30 points‚ three points ahead of the fifth-placed Blue Bull‚ who will be hosting the Pumas on Friday.
The Lions will be at home against the Free State Cheetahs on Saturday in the final round robin match of the tournament.
A potent but short-lived thunderstorm forced the players off the field 90 seconds before the break as the heavens unleashed hail and driving rain.
With dangerous flashes of lightning close to the stadium‚ it didn't seem to be a wise call but the first half unfolded without much incident.
Western Province looked the better side and were full value for their 17-10 halftime lead.
The 10th and 32nd minute tries scored by Nizaam Carr and Robert du Preez exposed the defensive frailties that have plagued the Lions throughout their Currie Cup campaign.
The Lions' sole first half try scored by Sylvian Mahuza in the 29th minute was a thing of simplistic beauty as the hosts took advantage of space created by broken play.
Discarded Springbok Janse van Rensburg showed he had a deft offload in freeing up Mahuza on the right.
However‚ Du Preez's boot made sure Western Province held the upper hand.
The inclement weather abated in the second half but the saturated surface and wet ball asked different questions of the players' skills and gain line dominance.
Neither side was able to exert sustained dominance but the Lions' seemingly superior handling saw left wing Dyantyi crossing for a great try just before the hour mark even though Damian Willemse's commitment to the tackle was at best questionable.
However‚ the visitors could count on Du Preez's boot to keep them ahead when it mattered as the sun came out momentarily in the last quarter.
The desperate Lions were keen on turning wine into water‚ with Dyantyi's 69th minute disallowed try being the example.
While he beat Ruhan Nel to the ball from a speculative Ashlon Davids chip‚ he just couldn't control his grounding.
The desperation on the Lions' players was clear as their tournament participation hinged on a decisive last 10 minutes.
Replacement lock Kruger crashed over in the 73rd minute to give the Lions the lead for the first time in the game and tilt the scales in the Lions' favour.
Janse van Rensburg made sure of the five points with his 78th minute try as the Lions live to fight another day.
Sylvian Mahuza‚ Aphiwe Dyantyi‚ Robert Kruger‚ Rohan Janse van Rensburg
Jaco van der Walt (2)‚ Ashlon Davids
Penalties: Van der Walt
Tries: Nizaam Carr‚ Robert du Preez
Conversions: Du Preez (2)
Penalties: Du Preez (2)