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Rugby | Absa Currie Cup

Elgar Watts © Gallo Images

Pumas claim another big scalp



The Pumas claimed another big scalp on Friday night as they used their chances well to beat the Lions 34-27 in their Absa Currie Cup match at Coca-Cola Park in Johannesburg.

Much has been talked about the Lions' resurgence in the past few months, but Jimmy Stonehouse’s charges deserve all the praise for the way they defended and took their opportunities against a side with bigger names and more firepower.

In a game where the Lions needed to run rampant to keep their semifinal hopes alive, they bowed out with a whimper, as old habits crept back into their play and mistakes cost them the match.

The Pumas now can claim to have two Super rugby union scalps after beating the Blue Bulls earlier in the season and will have received a massive confidence boost ahead of their Promotion-Relegation playoff match against Eastern Province.

While the Lions looked as if they were to sneak it, two tries by the Pumas in the last 10 minutes stole the game and a positive end to the season away from them.

The telling try came from a Lions mistake, a quick tap kickoff from their own 22 was lost, and allowed fullback Johan Jackson to pick up and run to the line for what became the winning score.

Still, while the Pumas were nuggety and tough on the evening, and allowed the Lions no leeway, the home side can hold their heads high for a season when they showed some pride after the ultimate lows of this year’s Super 14.

Jano Vermaak, Derick Minnie, Waylon Murray and Franco van der Merwe all can finish the season with pride after another good performance.

The Pumas, who have their pack to thank for a large part of the victory, can look in particular to Doppies le Roux and Corne Steenkamp as inspirations, with the big heart of Ronnie Uys never far away.

Steenkamp silenced the home crowd after just six minutes as he rolled along with an impressive maul to go over the tryline unhindered and put the visitors in the lead.

The rolling maul worked exceptionally well for the Pumas and it was no surprise when Steenkamp added a second later on in the game for his efforts.

However, after the opening try, the Lions hit back ten minutes later when a sniping break by Vermaak eventually led to Minnie going over for the try. Deon van Rensburg added the second four minutes later after a confident back-flip flummoxed the defence.

Yet any thoughts the Lions had of pulling away were snuffed out when former Sevens Bok Sean Venter rounded Marius Delport with pace and then sprinted away for an excellent try.

Steenkamp received a yellow card for repeated infringements, a costly blunder as the Lions were able to level the scores in his absence.

Waylon Murray eventually found a hole in the Puma defence, with Elton Jantjies first successful kick in four attempts leveling the scores on the stroke of half-time.

After the break, and Steenkamp’s return -- another break by Minnie popped the ball to Warren Whiteley’s hands to take the lead as it became more apparent this would be a very close game.

Watts and Jantjies swopped penalties to see the Lions protecting a seven point lead as the final 10 minutes started, but Puma scrumhalf Hendrik van der Nest would have other ideas, seizing the moment to pick and dart from the back of the scrum in a textbook scrumhalf try.

The Lions were looking shaky, and none more than when they attempted the quick tap kickoff from their own 22. Jackson lapped up the ball, and while the TMO was asked for verification, there was never any doubt about the try.

John Mitchell has improved this Lions side immensely, but on the last Friday night league fixture for the year, the glory and the scalp belonged to Stonehouse.

Scorers

Lions – tries: Derick Minnie, Deon van Rensburg, Waylon Murray, Warren Whiteley. Conversions: Jantjies (2). Penalties: Janties (1)
Pumas – tries: Corne Steenkamp (2), Shaun Venter, Hendrik van der Nest, Johan Jackson. Conversions: Elgar Watts (3). Penalties: Watts (1)

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