Unbeaten Lions take top spot

2011-08-08 00:00

THE unbeaten Golden Lions went four points clear of the Sharks at the top of the Currie Cup log, and dumped the Blue Bulls in the basement, with an impressive 36-27 win at Loftus at the weekend.

The Lions took advantage of the Sharks’ upset 43-22 loss to Griquas in Kimberley on Friday night and the Blue Bulls’ lack of discipline in Pretoria to establish their lead.

The Lions, direct and impressive, beat the Bulls 36-27, bullying the former Super Rugby champions at the breakdown and winning the goal-kicking duel.

And in Bloemfontein, it all went according to Springbok Peter de Villiers’ script ahead of the Tri-Nations Test against the Wallabies in Durban on Saturday.

Test flank Heinrich Brussow, who is desperately needed to boost the Bok backrow at King’s Park, came on for the final 25 minutes of the game and played a decisive role in Free State’s 28-22 win over Western Province.

Brussow, who has seen little action in the past year, was on for just 25 minutes, but secured a series of crucial turnovers with one after the final hooter to end the game as WP attacked.

Province looked far stronger in the first half, leading 13-0 after an excellent try by the speedy Johann Slade and the goal-kicking of young Demetri Catrakilis.

Both team scored a try — Cheetahs centre Corne Uys’s second-half interception with seven minutes remaining broke the deadlock — but referee Sindile Mayende turned the second-half into a lottery of penalties.

Faultless Free State flyhalf Sias Ebersohn kicked seven (and a conversion) and Catrakilis five.

Five returning Boks could not help the Bulls against the fired-up Lions, who had backrowers Derick Minnie and captain Josh Strauss in inspirational mood, while flyhalf Elton Jantjies was astute and creative at flyhalf.

The Bulls were heavily penalised at the breakdown and lock Flip van der Merwe spent 20 minutes in the cooler (and subsequently received a red for his two yellow cards) for persistent infringements.

Each team scored three tries with Jantjies goaling eight of 10 attempts while Francois Brummer succeeded with only four of eight kicks.

But certainly the Lions were the more organised, threatening team and, untouched by Springbok demands, they should really win the Currie Cup. They did, however, lose centre Waylon Murray to what was a serious knee injury.

Sharks coach John Plumtree, on his return to Durban following the disappointing loss in Kimberley on Friday night, said his team “had not been good enough and Griquas had deserved their win”.

Plumtree said, “This is their big game of the year and they always lift themselves against us.

“They wanted it more than us.”

He highlighted the problems in the scrums where the Sharks were often penalised.

He added, “But we also didn’t take care of our opportunities when we got into their 22 and they took theirs.

“That was the difference. We just weren’t accurate enough.

“Defensively we didn’t knock them back and this allowed them to build too many phases. It was a good lesson for the younger group.

“We’ve had two good wins at home and struggled twice away so this is a learning curve for them.”

He said that the Sharks would have to regroup quickly before the Province game in Cape Town on Friday.

“You can’t afford to lose two or three games in a row in this competition,” he said.

Plumtree is now being criticised for not playing his Springboks in the starting line-up.

“Hindsight is marvellous, particularly when it comes to selection. I’m not sure it would have made too much difference, but we will look at that in terms of selection for Newlands.

“Province will be a huge challenge but the boys know that and we’ll be up for it,” he added.

Score and scorers (home team first):

Blue Bulls 27: Tries: Chiliboy Ralepelle, Stefan Watermeyer, Akona Ndungane. Penalties: Francois Brummer (4). Lions 36: Tries: Josh Strauss, Michael Killian (2). Conversions: Elton Jantjies (3. Penalties: Jantjies (5).

Free State Cheetahs 28: Try: Corne Uys. Conversion: Sias Ebersohn. Penalties: Ebersohn (7).

Western Province 22: Try: Johann Sadie. Conversion: Demetri Catrakilis. Penalties: Catrakilis (5).

Friday’s results:

Griquas 43 Sharks 22

Leopards 27 Pumas 15

Weekend’s fixtures (home team first):

Friday:

Pumas vs Blue Bulls, 5.05 pm.

Griquas vs Leopards, 7.00 pm

Western Province vs Sharks , 7.10 pm

Saturday:

Lions vs Cheetahs, 7.10 pm.

Teams P W D L PD BPts Pts

Lions 4 4 0 0 68 2 18

Sharks 4 3 0 1 8 2 14

WP 4 2 1 1 60 3 13

Griquas 4 2 1 1 -10 2 12

FS 4 2 0 2 22 3 11

Leopards 4 1 0 3 -71 1 5

Pumas 4 0 0 4 -24 4 4

Bulls 4 1 0 3 -53 0 4

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