Pumas blitz limp Lions
CURRIE CUP MATCH REPORT: The Pumas scored 26 points in 20 minutes to record their second win over the Lions this season.
Coming from behind the Pumas held on in the face of a late charge by their hosts, to record a bonus-point (36-33) win at Ellis Park on Friday.
It leaves the Lions stuck at the bottom of the standings, while the win ensures the Pumas remain in the play-off race.
Despite holding a 21-10 lead at the half-time break, the Lions not only lost the plot, but also the game.
From the 11-point deficit, the Pumas managed to take a 15-point (36-21) lead on the hour mark and then held on – despite two later tries by the home team.
An even bigger concern for the Lions – apart from their winless streak – is the increased injury concerns.
Star loose forward Vincent Tshituka left the field early in the game with a leg complaint, raising concerns that he may have started the match with an injury.
Later veteran prop Jannie du Plessis (knee) also left the field.
The Pumas have some injury concerns of their own. Centre Erich Cronje left the field in the second half with a leg complaint.
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Both sides scored five tries, but once the visitors sorted out their discipline, the away win always looked possible for the team coached by Jimmy Stonehouse.
The Lowvelders delivered a commanding second-half performance after a very frustrating first half, which saw them playing with 14 men twice in the opening 40.
The opening 20 minutes of the second half were decisive, as the Pumas scored some fantastic tries to push their lead out to 36-21 – before the Lions found some late urgency.
However, their comeback effort came up short.
Pumas flyhalf Eddie Fouché had the first opportunity to get the scoreboard going five minutes in and made no mistake, following a Lions late tackle, but that was the only joy Stonehouse was enjoying in the next half hour.
No.8 Willie Engelbrecht send to the sin bin nine minutes in, and the hosts pounced.
The Lions opted for a scrum near the Pumas’ line and using their numerical advantage, Sibahle Maxwane ran in unopposed after a long pass from Jordan Hendrikse found the wing all on his own. Hendrikse did not mind the try in the corner and slotted the conversion with ease.
Fouché had another opportunity to the poles straight away, but the pivot pushed his effort to the right.
The visitors scored their first try 19 minutes in to reclaim the lead. With Engelbrecht back on the field, they attacked from behind their own 22-metre area line with a number of delightful passes and offloaded freeing flying fullback Devon Williams on the outside. He dotted down, Fouche found his range again and suddenly Pumas were 10-7 up.
The Lions kept pressing though and soon had the Pumas under massive pressure near their own line. With their pack in control, they opted for attacking scrums as the Pumas buckled under pressure, conceding penalties and accumulating warnings from referee Marius van der Westhuizen. The referee decided enough was enough and awarded a penalty try to the home side after another collapsed scrum near the visitors’ tryline.
That handed the lead back to the Lions after 25 minutes of play. A second yellow card – after seven penalties in a row – to captain Pieter Janse van Vuren had the visitors in deep trouble. The next Lions try, 32 minutes in, was almost inevitable as their pack, already in control, drove hooker Pieter Botha over the line.
Hendrikse kicked another beauty from the touchline to stretch the lead to 21-10.
The rest of the half delivered a number of half-chances to both teams, with the Lions no doubt rewarded for a better territorial effort and their 11-point lead at the break was fitting.
The second half saw a scorching start by the Pumas. They won three consecutive penalties through rolling mauls, each time kicking to the corner again and when former Falcons lock Shane Kirkwood scored his first try for his new team and Fouche converted, the lead was cut back to three.
The Pumas regained the lead 50 minutes in. They again drove well from a line-out, forced the Lions on the back foot, and then moved the ball to the wing where Etienne Taljaard cut through some weak defence to score.
Fouche converted and suddenly the visitors held a 24-21 lead. Lions lock Floris Pelser was also sin-binned for collapsing a Pumas maul earlier in the move that led to the try.
That cost the hosts as the Pumas kicked to the corner from yet another Lions infringement and from the rough and tumble by his forwards, centre Erich Cronje found space in the opposing defence to score the bonus point try and a 29-21 lead.
That was extended to 36-21 from the restart. The Pumas attacked to the left, Matt More found space, Taljaard linked up with Williams and was on hand for the return pass to score under the posts. Fouché kicked the conversion.
Courtnall Skosan scored 64 minutes in, to kick-start the Lions comeback. The wing came in from an angle after a strong Lions scrum and slipped through the gap created by decoy runners. Fred Zeilinga, who replaced Hendrikse earlier, kicked the conversion.
The Lions with newfound confidence and a rediscovered ability to hold onto possession started to ask serious questions to the Pumas defence, who had no answer. Prop Sithembiso Sithole was driven over from an attacking line out and suddenly the lead was cut back to three with ten minutes to play.
Fouché missed a penalty to push the lead to six again and ease the nerves, but credit to his pack who controlled the last couple of minutes to secure the win.
Man of the match: Wandisile Simelane and Courtnall Skosan tried their best to spark the Lions. The base for the Pumas’ win was laid by the efforts of forwards like Willie Engelbrecht, Khwezi Mafu, Pieter van Vuuren and veteran hooker Simon Westraadt. Flyhalf Eddie Fouche pulled the strings brilliantly, but the crucial plays were made by fullback Devon Williams and he wins our award.
For the Lions
Tries: Maxwane, Penalty try, Botha, Skosan, Sithole
Cons: Hendrikse 2, penalty try does not require a conversion, Zeilinga
For the Pumas
Tries: Williams, Kirkwood, Taljaard 2, Cronje
Cons: Fouche 4
Yellow cards: Willie Engelbrecht (Pumas, 9 – repeated infringements, no arms tackle), Pieter van Vuuren (Pumas, 31 – repeated infringements, slowing the ball at the ruck), Floris Pelser (Lions, 50 – foul play, lifting opponents’ legs in a maul)
Lions: 15 Wandisile Simelane, 14 Sibahle Maxwane, 13 Manuel Rass, 12 Dan Kriel, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Jordan Hendrikse, 9 Andre Warner, 8 Francke Horn (captain), 7 Vincent Tshituka, 6 Sibusiso Sangweni, 5 Floris Pelser, 4 Ruben Schoeman, 3 Carlu Sadie, 2 Pieter Botha, 1 Ruan Dreyer.
Replacements: 16 Jaco Visagie, 17 Sithembiso Sithole, 18 Jannie du Plessis, 19 Reinhard Nothnagel, 20 Ruhan Straeuli, 21 Morne van den Berg, 22 Fred Zeilinga, 23 Stean Pienaar.
Pumas: 15 Devon Williams, 14 Sebastián de Klerk, 13 Erich Cronje, 12 Matt More, 11 Etienne Taljaard, 10 Eddie Fouche, 9 Ginter Smuts, 8 Willie Engelbrecht, 7 Khwezi Mafu, 6 Daniel Maartens, 5 Pieter van Vuuren (captain), 4 Shane Kirkwood, 3 Ignatius Prinsloo, 2 Simon Westraadt, 1 Dewald Maritz.
Replacements: 16 Eduan Swart, 17 Ruan Kramer, 18 Etienne Janeke, 19 Kwanda Dimaza, 20 Phumzile Maqondwana, 21 Chriswill September, 22 Ali Mgijima, 23 Jade Stighling.
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen
Assistant referees: Local appointments
TMO: Aimee Barrett-Theron