Lions break their duck; end Bulls' run
RAINBOW CUP SA MATCH REPORT: The Lions finally got their first win of the season, beating the Bulls 34-33 in a thrilling affair at Ellis Park on Saturday.
Despite outscoring their hosts by five tries to four, the Bulls lost their unbeaten record in the domestic conference of the Trans-Hemisphere competition.
Replacement flyhalf Fred Zeilinga scored a try and landed a conversion with just five minutes left on the clock.
The host then held on and ran the clock down to bring some relief to their long-suffering fans.
The Bulls, with the two bonus points – one for losing by seven or less and one for four tries or more – remained at the top of the standings and in pole position to reach the Final.
They will also be concerned about the first-half injury of Springbok prop Lizo Gqoboka – who left the field just in the half-hour mark.
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Built on the back of a devastating scrum performance, the men in red managed to weather the blue storm from the north.
The Bulls were brilliant on the deck and forced many breakdown penalties, but they failed to convert all their opportunities into points, as the Lions managed to keep the visitors pinned in their own half at crucial stages of the game.
Both teams were intent on playing attacking rugby and the nine tries scored is testimony to that, but the Gauteng neighbours also defended very well throughout the match.
The visitors will argue they had a slight attacking advantage in the first half, as they scored three tries before the break, with Elrigh Louw (flank), David Kriel (fullback) and Madosh Tambwe (right wing) crossing for tries, while the men from Johannesburg had only two five-pointers before the break, through Ruben Schoeman (lock) and Rabz Maxwane (right wing).
With the heavies having a full go at each other, Maxwane’s try was probably the highlight of the first half after he was put in space down the right, jinxed past Duane Vermeulen (No 8), chipped, chased and gathered to go over.
The Lions’ young flyhalf Jordan Hendrikse slotted four from five, including a long-range penalty goal on the hooter, to hand his side a 20-19 lead at the break.
The Bulls came out firing after the break, with Chris Smith (flyhalf) scoring their bonus point try before Kriel got his second with just under 30 minutes to go. Both tries were off the back of strong runs, by Zak Burger (scrumhalf) and Tambwe.
At that stage and leading 33-20, the Bulls looked to be on their way to a comfortable win, but the Lions never gave up and kept hammering away, using their monster scrum to good effect to keep the pressure on their opponents.
When MJ Pelser (flank) went over for his team’s third try with 20 minutes to go, it was game on, and the Lions were growing in stature.
Smith missed a penalty that would have put his team ahead by nine points instead of six, and that probably gave the Lions extra resolve to clinch their first win, and no one worked harder than Vincent Tshituka (flank), who was named Man of the Match afterwards.
The wall finally broke when Fred Zeilinga, who replaced Hendrikse, went over for the Lions’ fourth try and his conversion put the hosts one point ahead.
And then they managed to keep the Bulls out in the final five minutes for a famous victory, which was also the men in blue’s first defeat of the PRO14 Rainbow Cup SA, with two rounds to go.
Man of the match: Bulls flyhalf Chris Smith is growing with every outing and flying wing Madosh Tambwe showed his great counter attacking and finishing ability, leaving the Lions defenders flailing in his wake. Springbok No.8 Duane Vermeulen was the Bulls’ most productive player – with his power, work ethic and leadership – winning some crucial turnovers. Burger Odendaal had a few decent runs for the Lions, Sibahle Maxwane displayed his pure pace and great skills under the high ball. Vincent Tshituka put on display his full array of skills – pace and power, not to mention his handling skills. Our award goes to Lions prop Sithembiso Sithole – one of the forward who laid the platform for the upset in the set pieces, dominated Springbok Trevor Nyakane at scrum time and also had a great workrate.
For the Lions
Tries: Schoeman, Maxwane, Pelser, Zeilinga
Cons: Hendrikse 3, Zeilinga
Pens: Hendrikse 2
For the Bulls
Tries: Louw, Kriel 2, Tambwe, Smith
Cons: Smith 4
Lions: 15 EW Viljoen, 14 Sibahle Maxwane, 13 Wandisile Simelane, 12 Burger Odendaal (captain), 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Jordan Hendrikse, 9 André Warner, 8 Len Massyn, 7 Vincent Tshituka, 6 MJ Pelser, 5 Reinhard Nothnagel, 4 Ruben Schoeman, 3 Carlu Sadie, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Sithembiso Sithole.
Replacements: 16 Pieter Botha, 17 Ruan Dreyer, 18 Asenathi Ntlabakanye, 19 Willem Alberts, 20 Emmanuel Tshituka, 21 Morné van den Berg, 22 Fred Zeilinga, 23 Manuel Rass.
Bulls: 15 David Kriel, 14 Madosh Tambwe, 13 Marco Jansen van Vuren, 12 Cornal Hendricks, 11 James Verity-Amm, 10 Chris Smith, 9 Embrose Papier, 8 Duane Vermeulen (captain), 7 Elrigh Louw, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Ruan Nortje, 4 Walt Steenkamp, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Johan Grobbelaar, 1 Lizo Gqoboka.
Replacements: 16 Schalk Erasmus, 17 Gerhard Steenekamp, 18 Mornay Smith, 19 Janko Swanepoel, 20 Nizaam Carr, 21 Zak Burger, 22 Clinton Swart, 23 Stravino Jacobs.
Referee: AJ Jacobs (SARU, 2nd competition game)
Assistant referees: Aimee Barrett-Theron, Morne Ferreira (both SARU)
TMO: Marius Jonker (SARU)
* Additional reporting by @rugby365com