The Lions have come back from another significant deficit to win a third straight Currie Cup match, this time beating the hitherto unbeaten Cheetahs by two points in an error-ridden round four match in Bloemfontein on Friday night.
Ivan van Rooyen’s men trailed 19-0 minutes before half-time, but then scored three tries either side of the interval to charge into the lead shortly after half-time and then kick the winning penalty in the last seconds of the match.
In round one the Lions came back to beat the Pumas 38-37, while last week they beat Western Province in Cape Town 30-28. Van Rooyen’s men now lead the way in this year’s Currie Cup, while the Cheetahs suffered their first defeat after earlier winning comfortably against the Bulls and Griquas.
It was all the Cheetahs in the first half as they dominated every department, except perhaps the lineouts. Their cause was helped in the initial stages by Lions lock Ruben Schoeman getting sin-binned in the 12th minute and the home team taking full advantage.
First home-town hooker Joseph Dweba, who besides his at times erratic lineout throwing enjoyed an industrious game, went over from a drive five metres out after finding his jumper in the lineout, and shortly thereafter lock Walt Steenkamp was in the right place at the right time to score his team’s second try when he intercepted a flick pass from off the ground by Lions prop Johannes Jonker.
The Cheetahs starved the usually free-running Lions of ball and also kept them pinned in their own half. The home team also defended strongly, especially when the visitors did venture into Cheetahs territory and it came as no surprise when the home side scored their third try on the half-hour mark; flank Marnus van der Merwe finishing off a set move at the lineout.
At 19-0 up and the half-time hooter having sounded the Cheetahs were well on top, but before the final whistle blew to bring the first 40 minutes to an end, the Lions found a way to score a converted try through wing Madosh Tambwe.
And the visitors continued where they left off when the second half started, this time taking advantage of the Cheetahs being reduced to 14 men for 10 minutes when fullback Darren Adonis was sin-binned. Exciting fullback Tyrone Green, who enjoyed a good outing, scored his team’s second try after 46 minutes after a counter-attack from deep in the Lions’ own half and he was followed into the tries column by his good friend Wandisile Simelane, who finished off after some good work by Green and Stien Pienaar.
The Lions had got themselves into the lead, and back into the game, not long after the half-time break, but it looked like all their hard work would prove to be a waste when replacement Reinhard Nothnagel was sin-binned in the 64th minute and Cheetahs replacement flyhalf Louis Fouche knocked over a 73rd minute penalty to give the home side a slender one-point lead.
But in the dying minutes, the Lions produced a strong scrum which ended in their winning a penalty and it was left to No 10 Shaun Reynolds to kick the winning goal.
Cheetahs (19) 22
Tries: Dweba, Steenkamp, Van der Merwe; Conversions: Schoeman, Janse van Rensburg; Penalty: Fouche
Lions (7) 24
Tries: Tambwe, Green, Simelane; Conversions: Reynolds (3); Penalty: Reynolds