The Lions survived a late onslaught by Western Province at Ellis Park on Wednesday night to register a thrilling 38-32 round two Currie Cup win.
The Lions, 38-10 up three-quarters through the game, were reduced to playing with 13 men for 10 minutes late on, which allowed the visitors to claw their way back into a contest they were never really in.
In the the end the Lions bagged the bonus-point win, while Province took two points home.
The home team were much-improved from their last outing against the Pumas last Friday and showed they will be a factor through the competition on home turf. They used their lineout and driving maul to excellent effect, scoring several of their tries via this route.
And the main beneficiary, as is usually the case, was hooker PJ Botha, who finished the game with two well-taken tries.
The lineout was just one area that functioned brilliantly for the home team. They also scrummed well and dominated this department, while their defensive work was much-improved after conceding nearly 40 points against the Pumas.
Intensity and hunger
The Lions played with intensity and hunger and they controlled most of the game, with the majority of action happening in the opposition’s half of the field.
Flank Sibusiso Sangweni was the first Lions man to go over from a five-meter lineout win, after seven minutes, and he was followed into the try area not long after by wing Rabz Maxwane, who finished off after a good passage of play by the home team.
Province No 8 Juarno Augustus got his team’s only try in the first period after finishing off after a few phases following a lineout win, but that was all the visitors had to celebrate in the first half.
The Lions’ Botha and lock Ruben Schoeman crossed for their tries from lineout wins in the latter stages of the first half to help their team into a commanding 24-10 lead at the break.
And it got worse for Province soon after the restart, with Botha getting his second try and Maxwane also crossing again.
At 38-10 up with less than 15 minute to go, the Lions looked to have the result sewn up. However, they lost replacement hooker Jaco Visagie and Schoeman to the sin-bin in the 68th and 69th minutes respectively and the two-man advantage allowed Province to stage a remarkable comeback.
They were first awarded a penalty try and then replacements Paul de Wet and Cornel Smit scored converted tries before Tim Swiel knocked over a penalty to get Province to within six points of the Lions score.
And while the visitors did everything in their power to breach the Lions’ defence at the death to pull off what would have been an astonishing victory, the home team kept them out and they were able to celebrate a hard-fought, but deserving win.
Lions: Tries: Sangweni, Maxwane (2), Botha (2), Schoeman; Conversions: Zeilinga (4)
WP: Tries: Augustus, Penalty try, De Wet, Smit; Conversions: Swiel (2); Penalties: Swiel (2)