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Rugby | Absa Currie Cup

Lions win in dramatic fashion



Courageous Lions skipper Franco van der Merwe scored a try at the death to give his side a crucial Absa Currie Cup victory over log leaders the Sharks 22-20 at Coca-Cola Park on Saturday.

But while the Lions will celebrate the famous victory as part of their resurgence under new coach John Mitchell this season, they will admit to being a tad fortunate as television replays looked to show Van der Merwe short of the line with the crucial move.

Referee Jason Japhta failed to refer the try to the TMO and took a while before blowing his whistle to give the crucial score, which set up a relatively easy conversion for flyhalf Elton Jantjies to win the game.

However, while the Sharks fans may feel aggrieved at the late try, they were certainly favoured by an official’s error as well, as assistant referee Christi du Preez missed Lwazi Mvovo’s foot on the touch line for his second try.

In Du Preezs’ defence, his sight was obscured by a diving Jannie Boshoff, and the try was awarded.

Still, both incidents may overshadow the result, but they shouldn’t take away from an enthralling game of rugby which showcased the best of the Currie Cup and had the result in the balance throughout.

The result leaves the Lions still in with a fight to make it to the semis, while the Sharks’ position at the top of the Currie Cup log remains unchanged, while their lead is cut to four points over Western Province.

Both sides must be commended for their attacking philosophy in the match, and while both young flyhalves will probably want to forget their day with the boot, there was more than enough up and coming talent on display to give the fans their money’s worth.

The home side got off to an incredibly poor start, where the Sharks drew in the Lions’ defence on the first attack, adding an extra winger on the left hand flank to send Mvovo away for his first score.

The Lions then lost hooker Martin Bezuidenhout in the aftermath after the assistant referee saw a punch and the referee saw yellow for the indiscretion.

Jantjies was truly not on song in the first half, succeeding with only one of his first three kicks, but the Lions were quickly back in the lead as they scored an impressive long-range try by Jaco Taute, after a mistake on attack by the Sharks.

Andries Strauss, playing in his 50th game for the coastal side, couldn’t hold onto the pass from Ryan Kankowski and Doppies La Grange swooped in on the ball in the air, taking it up 30 metres before sending Taute up the middle to score under the posts.

Then two minutes before the half-time hooter came, Mvovo received the ball on the touchline and tiptoed his way past a diving Boshoff, beating Jano Vermaak’s cross cover to score what looked like an excellent try.

TV Replays showed a slow motion picture of Mvovo’s foot on the line and the fiercely partisan crowd reacted with boos.

The Lions lost Taute early in the second half as he walked off with his arm in a sling, but they did strike early to extend their lead as Jannie Boshoff first cut inside before the recycled ball gave Jantjies the prime opportunity to put Waylon Murray into enough space for him to crash over the line.

The Sharks answered minutes later by sending Odwa Ndungane in at the corner, and when Pat Lambie finally succeeded with the conversion – his first successful kick in four attempts – they looked to seize the initiative and the game.

Another Lambie penalty and some strong defence looked to signal that they would hold out for a good win, but a moment of madness by Kankowski, where he tramped on Lions’ player’s chest, cost his team his services for the last five minutes of the game with a yellow card.

The Lions threw everything they had and were finally rewarded when Van der Merwe crashed over to keep their Currie Cup hopes alive.

The final few weeks of the competition may still provide much drama, but the Lions showed that if they are in it at the end, they can certainly mix it with any team, and come out on tops.

Scorers

Lions - tries: Jaco Taute, Waylon Murray, Franco van der Merwe. Conversions: Elton Jantjies (2). Penalty: Jantjies (1).

Sharks - tries: Lwazi Mvovo (2), Odwa Ndungane. Conversions: Patrick Lambie (1). Penalty: Lambie (1)

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