The Golden Lions beat the Pumas 33-21 in Nelspruit on Friday to advance to the Currie semi-finals. MARIETTE ADAMS reports.
Ultimately, this result can be put down to the Lions’ superior attacking prowess and their greater appreciation of territorial dominance. The Lions weren’t at their best during a first half in which the Pumas did well to stick with them on the scoreboard.
But after the Lions had snuck into the lead on the stroke of half-time, they managed the game well enough to secure a victory that keeps their season alive and ends the Pumas’ campaign.
Corné Fourie and Courtnall Skosan scored a brace each, but Lions centre Lionel Mapoe was the destroyer-in-chief as he came up with a try and an assist. And the score could have been even grander in favour of the visitors had blindside flank James Venter not had two tries disallowed, for a double movement and obstruction.
In the end, it mattered little for the Lions, who will now travel to face either the Sharks or Western Province – depending on the results from other matches on Saturday – in the last four.
Mapoe scored as early as the first minute when Pumas scrumhalf Stefan Ungerer had basically gift-wrapped his try with a horrible pass that landed in-between two of his teammates. All that was required of Mapoe was to run onto the ball at pace and score unopposed.
A patient build-up and some great exploitation of space saw Devon Williams dot down as the Pumas levelled the scores, but the Lions hit the front once more through Fourie. The hosts were dealt a further blow when their talisman Chris Smith was forced off the field in the 25th minute due to an injury. He was replaced by Kobus Marais.
Despite the setback, the Pumas fought hard to stay in the game and were rewarded in a short period when the Lions conceded three consecutive penalties, the first which saw Howard Mnisi yellow-carded for a cynical infringement. The Pumas pounced as No 8 Francois Kleinhans slid over the tryline before Marais knocked over the conversion to draw level again.
However, the pendulum swung the way of the Lions again when Mapoe called for the ball from the back of a retreating maul and skinned a couple of defenders before releasing Skosan on the outside. Having just gone behind 21-14, the Pumas were then reduced to 14 as Kleinhans was sent off for deliberately slapping the ball down.
There wasn’t as much action in the second half. The first try came when Skosan skidded over for his second, which took his side into bonus-point territory and Fourie drove home the advantage when he broke away from a collapsing maul for the Lions’ fifth.
Pumas captain Ryan Bell would have the last say in terms of scoring when he went under the sticks.
Pumas – Tries: Devon Williams, Francois Kleinhans, Ryan Nell. Conversions: Chris Smith, Kobus Marais (2).
Golden Lions – Tries: Lionel Mapoe, Corné Fourie (2), Courtnall Skosan (2). Conversions: Elton Jantjies (4).
Pumas – 15 Devon Williams, 14 Morné Joubert, 13 Neil Maritz, 12 Ryan Nell (c), 11 Ruwellyn Isbel, 10 Chris Smith, 9 Stefan Ungerer, 8 Francois Kleinhans, 7 Willie Engelbrecht, 6 Marnus Schoeman, 5 Cameron Lindsay, 4 Le Roux Roets, 3 Marné Coetzee, 2 Marko Janse van Rensburg, 1 Morgan Naudé.
Subs: 16 Simon Westraadt, 17 Andrew Beerwinkel, 18 Stefan Willemse, 19 Jeandré Rudolph, 20 Abri Griesel, 21 Kobus Marais, 22 Henco Marais.
Golden Lions – 15 Sylvian Mahuza, 14 Wandisile Simelane, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Howard Mnisi, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Nic Groom (c), 8 Hacjivah Dayimani, 7 James Venter, 6 Hanko de Villiers, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Rhyno Herbst, 3 Jacobie Adriaanse, 2 Corne Fourie, 1 Sti Sithole.
Subs: 16 Pieter Jansen, 17 Danie Mienie, 18 Chergine Fillies, 19 Driaan Bester, 20 Len Massyn, 21 Dillon Smit, 22 Shaun Reynolds.
Photo: Dirk Kotze/Gallo Images