Lions roar loudest at Loftus

JON CARDINELLI writes the Golden Lions scored four tries in their 32-23 win against the Blue Bulls on Saturday.

It was a match where the Lions’ adventurous attitude was rewarded, and where the Bulls’ poor defence and abysmal goal-kicking was punished.

The Bulls led 8-3 for much of the first half, but some wayward goal-kicking by Louis Fouche prevented the hosts from building on that lead. Fouche missed two kicks at goal and also sent a drop attempt wide. If one is to consider the final scoreline, you would have to say that these misses were incredibly costly.

So too were the lapses in concentration during periods before and after half-time. Lions wing Deon Helberg rounded off some enterprising play in the dying minutes of the first half, and centre Alwyn Hollenbach crossed the line early in the second. They were scores that changed the complexion of the game, as the Lions went to a 15-8 lead.

While Fouche had struggled with his goal-kicking, Lions flyhalf Elton Jantjies also battled at times with his accuracy. The Lions were clearly on top in the second half, but Jantjies failed to convert kickable penalties into points. Replacement Jaco Taute also had a long-range shot that fell short of the crossbar.

A mistake by Lionel Mapoe allowed the Bulls a turnover, and this culminated in a try for Bulls centre Francois Venter. The ensuing conversion brought the scores level at 15-15.

But some brilliance by Mapoe and Jantjies would see the Lions hitting back immediately. Mapoe made the initial break, and from the subsequent phase, Jantjies produced a deft chip over the defence. The Lions flyhalf regathered before delivering a great inside ball to Taute, who then ran 30m to score.

On the 60-minute mark, Jantjies added another penalty that took the Lions out to a 10-point lead. The Bulls stayed in touch with a penalty and try of their own, but a missed conversion by Fouche meant the Lions held a slender two-point advantage as the match approached its climax.

The Bulls’ desperation began to tell, as they made some elementary errors that effectively killed off any chance of a fightback. The Lions continued to come at the hosts, and after having one try disallowed, it was Mapoe who finished in the right-hand corner to bank the bonus point.

The result sees the Lions moving up the Currie Cup table, while the Bulls remain in last place.