Great Golden Lions second half
But the schoolboys did it with a luxurious margin, winning 45-18, five tries to two.
The Super Rugby win gives the Lions a semifinal next week. The Craven Week win gave the Golden Lions the satisfaction of an unofficial crown as the winners of Craven Week.
There is no official winner of Craven Week but everybody will talk about the Golden Lions as the winner of the 2017 Craven Week, the fourth time they have done it since 1971. The last time was in 2005.
You would not have bet that the Golden Lions would do it – not after the way Kwa-Zulu Natal played on Thursday and certainly not when Kwa-Zulu Natal was leading 18-11 at half-time in the match. But the Golden Lions ruled the second half, winning it 34-0.
Mark Morrison kicked off to start, Tino Swanepoel set them attacking and, when Travis Gordon was tackled without the ball, fullback Kennedy Mpeku goaled. The Golden Lions led 3-0 after just 2 minutes.
Kwa-Zulu Natal were attacking when Tino Swanepoel stretched upwards, intercepted and ran 51 metres to score a try in an easy place for a conversion. The conversion was not over because – rare occurrence – a defender charged if down. 8-0 after 9 minutes.
When Golden Lions were penalised for an air tackle, scrumhalf Sanele Nohamba, who played flyhalf in the second half, goaled. 8-3 after 12 minutes.
Morrison broke brilliantly in midfield with a long stride, step and swerve but the advantage he gained broke down when passing went astray and Kwa-Zulu Natal came racing back down the left and looked to have scored when Cham Zondeki went over in the left corner as first Morrison, then Gordon tried to get him into touch. Consultation with the TMO found that Zondeki had indeed put a foot on the line.
Later in the half, Zondeki squeezed over in the left corner. Later still in the match, the TMO decided that he had again put a bit of boot on the line in trying the score a try. And later still two Golden Lions players tackled him out at the corner, a decision again made with the TMO's help.
But Kwa-Zulu Natal did score after Zondeki's failed attempt. It gave the Golden Lions a five-metre line-out but Kwa-Zulu Natal won it, Nohamba flipped the ball infield as he headed for touch and powerful Conan Le Fleur scored far out on the right.
Nohamba's conversion went in off the upright, Kwa-Zulu Natal led 10-8, which they increased to 15-8 after hooker Fezokuhle Mbatha intercepted when the Golden Lions were attacking and Kwa-Zulu Natal with much effort and much inter-passing got into the Golden Lions 22.
They went wide left where a long pass by Dylan Pretorius found fullback Siyanda Cele who sent Zondeki hurtling in for a try, and after 18 minutes Kwa-Zulu Natal led 15-8.
First Mpeku and then Nohamba goaled penalties and the score was 18-11 at half-time.
Kwa-Zulu Natal started the second half looking like winners. After Mbatha and Mjara had advanced their cause, they were awarded an easy penalty. Dylan Richardson tapped and charged and then Zondeki was tackled out at the corner.
The Golden Lions overthrew the line-out. Pretorius got the ball and was close and then Phendulani Buthelezi was actually over the line but lost the ball as David Cary and Gordon tackled him.
Kwa-Zulu Natal had lost a golden chance.
Kwa-Zulu Natal was penalised for hands in at a scrum and from over 40 metres out and at an angle, Mpeku goaled.
Kwa-Zulu Natal had a last chance when they attacked and the ball went to Zondeki, as Luke Rossouw, on at flyhalf, and Kennedy Mpeku desperately tried to stop him. He was over in the corner but yet again the TMO could show that he had first gone into touch.
Kwa-Zulu Natal used JJ van der Mescht and Richardson to bash the ball up, but a ball lost in the Golden Lions 22 found a home with Tino Swanepoel and off this Houdini went, beating eight would-be tacklers. Asenathi Ntlabakanye, a local hero, bashed ahead and then the ball went to Cary who dummied, slipped between two defenders, a wing and a lock, and dived over for a try. Mpeku converted from far out. 28-18 with 13 minutes to play.
The speed of the Golden Lions wings was exception al.
The Golden Lions's next try started with a Kwa-Zulu Natal knock-on. Mark Snyman, who had a magnificent game, started it, Ntlabakanye carried it on, Swanepoel had a dart and then Rossouw did a switch with Snyman who beat a defender to score under the posts. 35-18.
With two minutes to play Mpeku goaled a penalty and then Swanepoel played Houdini on the left and the Golden Lions went wide right to Cary. Rynhardt Jonker saved a certain try by tackling him near the right corner but the Golden Lions bashed at the line till PJ Jacobs, their main basher, scored. Mpeku converted and the match ended.
It was a remarkable match.
For Golden Lions:
Tries: PJ Jacobs, Tino Swanepoel, David Cary, Franco Schutte, Mark Snyman
Cons: Kennedy Mpeku 4
Pens: Kennedy Mpeku 4
For Kwa-Zulu Natal:
Tries: Cham Zondeki, Conan Le Fleur
Con: Sanele Nohamba
Pens: Sanele Nohamba 2
Golden Lions: 15 Kennedy Mpeku (KES), 14 David Cary (Helpmekaar), 13 Leon Mpeku (KES), 12 Yanga Hlalu (KES), 11 Tino Swanepoel (Florida), 10 Marc Morrison (KES), 9 Tinus Combrinck (Monument), 8 Travis Gordon (KES), 7 PJ Jacobs (Monument), 6 Mark Snyman (Helpmekaar), 5 Kegan Litchfield (Jeppe), 4 Christen van Niekerk (Monument), 3 Keegan Glade (KES), 2 Dameon Venter, 1 Nkosikhona Masuku (Parktown), 16 Morné Brandon (Monument), 17 Rudolph Oosthuizen (Florida), 18 Asenathi Ntlabakanye (St Stithians), 19 Stephan le Roux (Monument), 20 Franco Schutte (Monument), 21 Luke Rossouw (Monument), 22 Tyler Hayward (KES), 23 Muzilikazi Manyike (Jeppe).
Kwa-Zulu NatalSharks: 15 Siyanda Cele (Glenwood), 14 Njabulo Mjara (Maritzburg Coillege), 13 Conan le Fleur (Glenwood), 12 Rynhardt Jonker (Glenwood), 11 Cham Zondeki (DHS), 10 Dylan Pretorius (Glenwood), 9 Sanele Nohamba (DHS), 8 Phendulani Buthelezi (DHS), 7 Dylan Richardson (Kearsney), 6 Dylan Kruger (Glenwood), 5 JJ van der Mescht (Glenwood), 4 Edward Laubscher (Glenwood), 3 Keynan Knox (Michaelhouse), 2 Fezokuhle Mbatha (Maritzburg Coillege), 1 Jordan Clarke (Glenwood), 16 Daniel Truter (Glenwood), 17 Thabiso Mdletshe (Glenwood), 18 Brendon Schwulst (Glenwood), 19 Celimpilo Gumede (DHS), 20 Ntuthuko Mchunu (Maritzburg Coillege), 21 Jaden Hendrikse (Glenwood), 22 Morné van Rensburg (Glenwood), 23 Lwandile Menze (DHS).
Referee: Stephan Geldenhuys
Assistant referees: Paul Mente, Eduan Nel
TMO: Pieter Maritz