Comeback Kings, the Lions, go top
CURRIE CUP REPORT: For the third time this season the Lions came back from a massive deficit to retain their unbeaten record in the competition.
The Lions travelled to Bloemfontein to face the Free State Cheetahs in a battle of the only remaining unbeaten teams.
The Lions came from behind to win 24-22 in a thrilling encounter and move to the top of the standings.
The Cheetahs held a 19-0 lead after 30-odd minutes, but the Lions scored three unanswered tries to take the lead in the 53rd minute.
Scrums remains a massive issue for the Lions, who continue to cough up penalties at the set-piece. However, when it mattered most, two minutes from time, they produced a massive scrum to win a crucial penalty of their own.
The hosts’ line-outs were an equally big headache, as the Lions won numerous turnovers in this aspect of the game.
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The early stages of the game were marked by the high number of turnovers – both teams stealing each other’s line-outs, also winning the ball at the tackle and breakdown.
However, soon after Lions lock Ruben Schoeman was yellow-carded for the cynical foul, the Cheetahs mauled the ball over the line – hooker Joseph Dweba getting the armchair ride. Tian Schoeman added the extras for a 7-0 lead.
Walt Steenkamp scored the next try, when he pounced on a stray pass after some sloppy play from the Lions deep inside their own 22. Schoeman was wide with the conversion attempt – 12-0.
On the half-hour mark, Marnus van der Merwe scored the Cheetahs’ third try – a line-out move in which he came around the short side and exposed the Lions’ brittle defence. Bernard Janse van Rensburg, who took over the goal-kick from the injured Schoeman, slotted the conversion – 19-0.
Right on the stroke of half-time the Lions eventually found the tiniest of holes in the Cheetahs defence – Hacjivah Dayimani offloading to Madosh Tambwe for their first try. Shaun Reynolds added the conversion to make it 19-7 at the break.
Soon after being reduced the 14 men – Darren Adonis sent to the sin bin for repeated infringements by the Cheetahs team – the hosts saw Tyrone Green narrow the gap with the Lions’ second try. Reynolds added the conversion – 14-19.
Wandisile Simelane scored the Lions’ third try soon afterwards, a sublime backline move in which a great inside pass by Stean Pienaar sent the centre over. Reynolds slotted the conversion to give the Lions the lead for the first time – 21-19.
The Lions were next to be reduced to 14 men, Reinhard Nothnagel sent to the sin bin for repeated infringements. Yet the seven-man Lions scrum managed to win a crucial penalty against the eight men of the Cheetahs just five metres away from their own line.
With just under 10 minutes remaining, we finally saw the first kick at goal, replacement Louis Fouche regaining the lead for the Cheetahs.
The Lions got their own back with a massive scrum two minutes from time, winning a penalty – with Reynolds slotting it to regain the lead for the visitors – which turned out to be the match-winning, 24-22.
Man of the match: Front row forwards Joseph Dweba and Retshegofaditswe Nche were real menaces – both with the ball in hand and on defence. Loose forwards Junior Pokomela and Henco Venter were the other industrious players in the pack. In the backline, Tian Meyer and Dries Swanepoel were the most effective. Tyrone Green was again the Lions’ main attacking threat. Lions flank Marnus Schoeman, as you have come to expect of him, made a real nuisance of himself at the breakdown. His energy and strength made him the Lions’ most valuable asset and wins him our award.
For the Free State Cheetahs:
Tries: Dweba, Steenkamp, Van der Merwe
Cons: T Schoeman, Janse van Rensburg
For the Golden Lions:
Tries: Tambwe, Green, Simelane
Cons: Reynolds 3
Yellow cards: Ruben Schoeman (Golden Lions, 11 – cynical foul, slapping the ball down), Darren Adonis (Free State Cheetahs, 42 – repeated infringements, illegal attempt to turn over the ball in tackle), Reinhard Nothnagel (Golden Lions, 64 – repeated infringements, killing the ball at the breakdown)
Free State Cheetahs: 15 Darron Adonis, 14 Tapiwa Mafura, 13 Benhard Janse van Rensburg, 12 Dries Swanepoel, 11 Sibahle Maxwane, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Tian Meyer, (captain), 8 Henco Venter, 7 Junior Pokomela, 6 Marnus van der Merwe, 5 Walt Steenkamp, 4 Sitno Manjesi, 3 Aranos Coetzee, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Retshegofaditswe Nche.
Replacements: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Charles Marais, 18 Reinach Venter, 19 Jean-Pierre du Preez, 20 Abongile Nonkontwana, 21 Gerhard Olivier, 22 Ruan Pienaar, 23 Louis Fouche.
Golden Lions: 15 Tyrone Green, 14 Madosh Tambwe, 13 Wandisile Simelane, 12 Jan-Louis la Grange, 11 Stean Pienaar, 10 Shaun Reynolds, 9 Ross Cronje (captain); 8 Hacjivah Dayimani, 7 Vincent Tshituka, 6 Marnus Schoeman, 5 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 4 Ruben Schoeman, 3 Johannes Jonker, 2 Pieter Jansen, 1 Sithembiso Sithole.
Replacements: 16 Jan-Henning Campher, 17 Leo Kruger, 18 Jacobie Adriaanse, 19 Reinhard Nothnagel, 20 James Venter, 21 Len Massyn, 22 Dillon Smit, 23 Manuel Rass.
Referee: Jaco Peyper
Assistant referees: Marius van der Westhuizen, Griffin Colby
TMO: Lourens van der Merwe