Lions get the jump on Kings
The Lions took a giant leap towards reclaiming their Super Rugby status from the Southern Kings when they scored a 26-19 win in Port Elizabeth on Friday.
The teams scored two tries each, as the Lions played with 14 men for most of the final 10 minutes, but they took four valuable points away from their Round One encounter.
The Kings now know they have to travel to Johannesburg next Saturday and get a bonus-point win, while denying the Lions any points.
It was a game dreadful in its consequences – both sides fighting for their survival in the immediate future, the Kings wanting to stay with all that they had enjoyed in Super Rugby, the deprived Lions wanting to get back to what they had been missing.
It was understandably intense – intense from the time Dimitri Catrakelis kicked off to start the game till Guy Cronje kicked out to end the game.
The first tackle of the match was hard and forceful and it set the Kings on the attack. But generally in the match the Lions' tackling was better. With two exceptions they did not miss tackles while the Kings did. On the other hand the Lions' handling was too often poor. The Kings' handling was better though the dew on the grass was the same for both. The Lions scrummed better than the Kings did and were much better at the tackled ball, winning several turnovers, some of them vital.
Whether or not this match will prove a pyrrhic victory for the Lions, time will tell. They lost Michael Bondisio during the week to a training injury. A blow. They replaced him with 20-year-old Vian van der Walt and he went off injured. Others injured were Deon van Rensburg who came back from his first injury and then had to be carried off. They lost Jaco Kriel in the first half of the first half and then JC Janse van Rensburg just before the end.
Not that the Kings got through it unscathed. Their biggest loss may well have been Dimitri Catrakelis who was having a brilliant game till he went off seeming to hold his wrist.
It was a match of brutal collisions. Nobody smiled during this game. There was just too much on the game, but doff your hat to the players – they kept their aggression in check.
At half-time the Kings felt they needed to improve their discipline. The penalty count for the match was 13-8 in favour of the Lions but the Kings gave away three penalties at the scrum, two for high tackles and one for tackling an opponent who did not have the ball.
It seemed that kick-offs would be a case of 'my kick, my ball'. The Kings kicked off, tough Derick Minnie caught the ball and forged ahead but big Kevin Buys smashed into him dislodging the ball which the Kings then used for a frantic attack. Twice the referee played advantage but then he penalised Dylan des Fountain for being offside and Catrakelis goaled. 3-0 after 2 minutes
The Kings clearly wanted to harass the Lions but Ronnie Cooke tackled high. Elton Jantjies goaled. 3-3 after 10 minutes.
The Kings kicked off, tackled Anthony Volmink and Minnie was penalised. Catrakelis made it 6-3 after 10 minutes.
The Lions kicked off and Buys tackled Kriel when he did not have the ball. 6-6 after 13 minutes.
Stokkies Hanekom broke and Wimpie van der Walt was penalised. 9-6 after 17 minutes.
Catrakelis kicked off, Hendrik Roodt lost the ball in a tackle and the Kings attacked. Cooke broke past Jantjies and was diving for a try in the left corner when Deon van Rensburg dived into him for a midair collision. Van Rensburg turned Cooke over and Franco van der Merwe gave a hand with the result that Cooke was forced into touch-in-goal, It may just have been the best tackle of the year.
David Bulbring tackled high and Jantjies made it 12-6 after 21 minutes.
Catrakelis broke well down the blind side from a scrum and Minnie was penalised at a tackle. The Kings made the penalty into an attacking line-out, about to launch their mauls which they have found so profitable but the Lions were vigorous in countering them and in fact performed them more profitably in the match. But the Kings kept possession and the ball went to Catrakelis who stabbed the most beautiful crossfield punt to Marcello Sampson who was waiting on the left wing. He waited and waited till the ball came down. He caught it and dived over for a try. 12-11 after 27 minutes.
Cooke burst past Minnie to set the Kings on an enthusiastic attack. Minnie went offside and Catrakelis put the home side 14-12 in front to the delight of nearly every one of the 27 358 crowd – nearly, for their was a cheerful band of Lions supporters there as well. The lead lasted till nearly half-time.
The Kings were in the Lions half and Catrakelis went left. He passed a long pass as his side had an overlap of three against one but the one, Stokkies Hanekom, stuck out a hand, caught the ball and raced nearly 70 empty metres to score under the posts. 19-14 to the Lions, which was the half-time score.
SP Marais was penalised at a tackle and the Lions ran from well inside their half. They kicked down towards the Kings' line where Marais knocked on as Volmink raced at him. This set off a chain of three five-metre scrums to the Lions, two when they opted for scrums instead of kicking at goal, but the Kings held out.
The Kings suffered an awful blow when Catrakelis went off injured. His place was taken by George Whitehead.
The Kings did in like manner when they used two penalties to set up two five-metre line-outs but the Lions repelled them. Instead the Lions attacked and a sharp pass from Jantjies sent Hanekom over for his second try, this one much hampered by would-be tacklers. Jantjies converted. 26-14 after 66 minutes.
The Lions were in trouble soon afterwards when the Kings attacked and Des Fountain was not only penalised for slowing down their ball but also sent to the sin bin. The Kings kicked the subsequent penalty out for another five-metre line-out. The Lions repelled the initial effort but the Kings went infield and with much assistance from behind Steven Sykes, on for Darren Nell, scored well in but Whitehead missed the conversion, an important miss as it left the Kings still needing two more tries to win. 26-19 with 10 minutes to play.
The Lions looked to be throwing it away when Van der Merwe tried to throw a dummy and lost the ball forward and then Ruan Combrinck kicked directly into touch from outside his 22.
The Kings attacked but the Lions' defence was stout. The Lions attacked but Marnitz Boshoff, on for Jantjies, missed with a drop. The Lions had a scrum, the final siren sounded and Cronje kicked the ball out for a Lions' victory.
Man of the Match: We had a choice between fleet-footed Ronnie Cooke, the most creative back on the field, and doughty JC Janse van Rensburg. We chose Janse van Rensburg for his steady, controlled leadership, his work in the scrums and everywhere else – a leader of men, who praised his men at the end saying: "That's what guts is."
Moment of the match: The Nicolaas Hanekom try in the 38th minute, when he intercepted a Demetri Catrakilis pass and raced 70 metres downfield for a score that gave the Lions a lead they never conceded.
Villain of the match: None, not even Dylan des Fountain for his yellow card in the 69th minute. It was a strange call in any event.
For the Southern Kings:
Tries: Sampson, Sykes
Pens: Catrakilis 3
For the Lions:
Tries: Hanekom 2
Cons: Jantjies 2
Pens: Jantjies 4
Yellow card: Dylan des Fountain (Lions, 69 – repeated infringements at the breakdown)
Southern Kings: 15 SP Marais, 14 Hadleigh Parkes, 13 Ronnie Cooke, 12 Shane Gates, 11 Marcello Sampson, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Jacques Engelbrecht, 7 Wimpie van der Walt, 6 Cornell du Preez, 5 David Bulbring, 4 Darron Nell (captain), 3 Kevin Buys, 2 Bandise Maku, 1 Schalk Ferreira.
Replacements: 16 Grant Kemp, 17 Hannes Franklin, 18 Steven Sykes, 19 Devin Oosthuizen, 20 Nicolas Vergallo, 21 George Whitehead, 22 Waylon Murray.
Lions: 15 Ruan Combrinck, 14 Deon van Rensburg, 13 Nicolaas Hanekom, 12 Dylan des Fountain, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Vian van der Watt, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Derick Minnie, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Hendrik Roodt, 3 Julian Redelinghuys, 2 Martin Bezuidenhout, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg (captain).
Replacements: 16 Robbie Coetzee, 17 Ruan Dreyer, 18 Willie Britz, 19 Warwick Tecklenburg, 20 Ross Cronje, 21 Marnitz Boshoff, 22 Chrysander Botha.
Referee: Jaco Peyper
Assistant referees: Jason Jaftha, Sindile Mayende
TMO: Deon van Blommestein