Lions keep pressure on

The Lions kept their hopes of an Absa Currie Cup semi-final berth alive with narrow 34-32 victory over Griquas at Ellis Park.

The win sends Loffie Eloff’s team into fourth position on the log, albeit temporarily, pending the result of the Vodacom Blue Bulls/Sharks match.

The Ellis Park faithful had to wait just two minutes before their team opened the scoring.

Jaco van Schalkwyk has been impressive since being entrusted with the No 10 jersey, and showed why Loffie Eloff rates him highly when he deftly chipped the rushing Griquas defence. Jaco Pretorius collected a fortuitous bounce and was left with a clear run at goal.

The home side’s game was characterised by a desperation for the five points which resulted in them playing an open, expansive game. Wickus van Heerden and eighthman, Ernst Joubert were deployed as midfield strike-runners despite them looking far more effective when they kept it tighter.

But the adventurous approach of the Johannesburg-based side eventually paid dividends with a scintillating long range try.

A Griquas restart, after an Earl Rose penalty extended the Lions lead to ten points, was collected by Cobus Grobler who set up the ruck.

With the Griquas defence braced for the expected kicked clearance, Rose showed phenomenal vision to shift the ball wide to Van Schalkwyk who drew his defender and offloaded to Pretorius.

The Sevens star absolutely blitzed the cover defence, and a move that had started deep in their own 22m area was rounded off with Le Grange touching down under the posts after Pretorius had committed fullback Bobby Joubert to the tackle and passed.

Roses’ conversion made the lead 24-0 with only seconds to go before the half-time siren sounded.

But a loss of concentration and poor defence allowed the visitors to reply immediately through captain Gareth Krause.

Prop Eugene van Staaden broke the defensive line with a determined run, then delivered a popped pass to Tertius Carse who switched with Krause to deceive the cover defence. Barnard stuck the conversion, then added another three points from a penalty to bring his side to within striking distance.

The Lions eased the pressure with their bonus-point try in the second-half, when Willy Human broke down the right hand touchline and set up the ruck on the Griquas 22.

Substitute scrumhalf Jano Vermaak quickly cleared from the base and found a hard running Rose, who showed a sublime sidestep to leave two defenders sprawling, before he sent a wobbly pass out to Van Heerden who collected from his bootlaces and scored.

At 29-7 the Lions must’ve thought they’d done enough to break the spirit of the Griquas. But the men from Kimberly are nothing if not resilient and launched a counteroffensive that had the Lions scrambling.

A 55th minute Barnard penalty made the score 29-13, before a quick tap-and-go inside the Lions 22 caught the hosts unaware and short of defenders, for wing Vuyani Dlomo to slide over in the corner.

Tertius Carse was Griquas standout player and the inside-centre made it a four point game when he ran a great angle from a set piece on the Lions 10m line. Le Grange missed the tackle and Carse sprinted over.

A late Ethienne Reynecke try once again eased the pressure on Eloff’s team but Griquas refused to submit.

Carse was not done tormenting the Lions defence and from a turnover ball on their 22m line, the ball found the former Vodacom Western Province player, who outstripped the scattered Lions, and unselfishly passed inside to Alshaun Bock who brought the visitors to within two points of an upset.

But the Lions held on for the victory and in so doing, transferred the pressure to win to their northern rivals.

Scorers

Lions
Tries:Jaco Pretorius, Doppies la Grange (2), Joubert, Reynecke
Conversions:Earl Rose (3)
Penalty:Rose

Griquas

Tries:Krause, Dlomo, Carse, Bock
Conversions:Barnard (3)
Penalties: Barnard (2)