Lions simply slicker than Leopards
The Xerox Lions had far more attacking guns and slickness than the Platinum Leopards as they ran out comfortable 45-22 (halftime 24-8) winners of their Absa Currie Cup Premier Division match at Coca-Cola Park in Johannesburg on Friday night.
The Lions relied on a pleasingly ambitious, ball-in-hand approach to score seven tries and earn the bonus point. Although this expansive approach occasionally got them into trouble - the Leopards had them on the back foot for long periods in the second half - the minnows never had the skill to apply the finishing touches to their possession.
Openside flank Renaldo Bothma, who played hard on the ball throughout the match, and lock Johan Snyman, who enjoyed an outstanding game, scored two tries each for the Lions, with the others coming from eighthman Warren Whiteley, wing Michael Killian and scrumhalf Jano Vermaak.
Flyhalf Elton Jantjies had an off-day with the boot, succeeding with just three conversions for a 50% success rate, while Burton Francis, who replaced the 20-year-old talent midway through the second half, added two conversions.
The Leopards started well, securing the kick-off and putting the Lions under early pressure and winning a five-metre scrum. The ball was then sent right and scrumhalf Michael Bondesio darted over from the ensuing ruck for the opening try. The nuggety halfback left the field feeling worse for wear not long afterwards, however.
Jantjies missed a seventh-minute penalty but the Lions had the Leopards under concerted pressure and a poor clearance kick spewed out to right wing Jannie Boshoff, who put in a strong run, as did fellow wing Killian, before Bothma went over for the home team's opening try, in the 12th minute.
Jantjies's conversion put the Lions in a slim 7-5 lead, but that quickly became a 12-5 advantage as Snyman scored in the highlight of the match. Finding himself in a gap after the kick-off, Snyman charged upfield, showed a nifty sidestep and then the two-metre lock galloped off to complete a rousing individual try that started from inside his own half.
With centre Doppies la Grange consistently finning his way through half-gaps in midfield, there was a distinct taste of vinegar in the mouths of the Leopards at halftime as the Lions ran in two more tries. A knee-shuddering run by Snyman just added to La Grange's probing and eighthman Whiteley crashed over in the 21st minute.
The only aspect of the game where the Lions were not really getting into gear was at the breakdowns, and Leopards flyhalf Neill Jacobs kicked a 22nd-minute ruck penalty to close the gap to 17-8.
But the Lions went into the break 24-8 up after Killian showed good toe to get over in the left corner, Jantjies converting.
The third quarter was mostly gang-warfare between the forwards at close quarters, but the Lions kept their composure well before totting up their fifth try, Killian setting up scrumhalf Vermaak.
The Leopards' challenge seemed to have died away as another bullocking run by Snyman left bodies on the floor, Bothma grabbing his second try to put the Lions 38-8 in front and in the pound seats.
But the indomitable North-Westerners scored two tries in the last 10 minutes, Jovan Bowles and Clayton Durand tearing through the backline to allow fullback Jan van Zyl an easy run-in.
Whiteley was then yellow-carded for grabbing a player in the air at the kick-off and the Leopards tore off upfield again, eighthman Riaan Swanepoel bursting clear and having the well-travelled RW Kember up in support for the visitors' third try.
The Lions seemed to have earned a seventh try when Boshoff dotted down under the posts, but instead fullback Jaco Taute earned himself a yellow card and the Leopards tried to run the penalty from their own 22. All that achieved was Snyman poaching the ball in his big hands and netting his second try.
Xerox Lions - Tries: Renaldo Bothma (2), Johan Snyman (2), Warren Whiteley, Michael Killian, Jano Vermaak. Conversions: Elton Jantjies (3), Burton Francis (2).
Platinum Leopards - Tries: Michael Bondesio, Jan van Zyl, RW Kember. Conversions: Clayton Durand (2). Penalty: Neill Jacobs.