Lions hang on against Pumas
The Lions withstood a determined onslaught from the Pumas to run out 33-30 (halftime 13-10) victors in their Currie Cup Premier Division match played at the Puma Stadium in Witbank on Friday.
The match was a riveting affair during which the visitors ran up an early lead, only to watch as the Pumas reeled in the deficit and then took the game by the scruff of the neck.
But John Mitchell’s side, who beat the Cheetahs last week, were not about to lie down and they proceeded to snatch the honours thanks to a late penalty from flyhalf Burton Francis.
The Pumas had numerous chances after the final hooter to kick an equalising penalty but instead they chose to run the ball and then had to watch as the television match official denied them a try off the last movement of the match.
The Lions opened the scoring in the fourth minute with a penalty by Francis, who added a second six minutes later before winger Deon van Rensburg dived over at the posts after taking a quick tap penalty. Francis made it 13-0.
The home side struck back when eighthman Christo le Roux barged over in the 20th minute for a TMO-decided try that flyhalf Elgar Watts converted to reduce the deficit to just six.
Watts then made no mistake with a penalty on the half hour to make it 13-10 as the Pumas fought their way back into the match.
The former Maties flyhalf gave his side the lead shortly after the break when he dummied his way over for a try near the left-hand corner after sustained pressure on the Lions’ line.
The Pumas then scored their third try in the 49th minute when referee Joey Salmans awarded a penalty try after Lions lock Franco van der Merwe had to resort to a dangerous tackle to prevent centre Tiaan Meyer from crossing the line.
Watts’s conversion saw the Pumas lead 22-13 but no sooner had play restarted minus the sinbinned Van der Merwe than his scrumhalf teammate Jano Vermaak charged down a clearing kick by Watts to dive over.
But the Pumas weren’t to be denied, fullback Nicky Kritzinger snatching a loose ball near the Lions’ line on the hour to crawl over and make it 27-18.
HERO TO VILLAIN
Kritzinger however quickly turned villain when he was yellow-carded three minutes later for a shoulder charge, which allowed the Lions to set up camp deep inside Pumas territory.
The result was a third try, to flanker Derick Minnie, from a driven lineout which the Pumas were powerless to stop. Francis added the extra points to close the gap to just two with 15 minutes remaining.
The Pumas’ replacement flyhalf, Ricardo Croy, then kicked a nerveless 68th-minute penalty to restore a five-point buffer.
The Lions weren’t finished, however, fullback Jaco Taute finishing off a multi-phase move to cross unopposed for his team’s fourth try, which levelled the scores.
Francis hooked the conversion that would have given the Lions the lead but he made amends with five minutes remaining to seal the result.
Pumas 30 – Tries: Christo le Roux, Elgar Watts, penalty try, Nicky Kritzinger. Conversions: Watts (2). Penalties: Watts, Ricardo Croy.
Lions 33 – Tries: Deon van Rensburg, Jano Vermaak, Derick Minnie, Jaco Taute. Conversions: Burton Francis (2). Penalties: Francis (3).