Lions claw Cheetahs in Bloem
Ruan Combrinck (Gallo Images)
Bloemfontein - The Golden Lions beat the Free State Cheetahs 38-23 in their Currie Cup clash in Bloemfontein on Saturday to remain among the front runners in this year's competition.
The Johannesburg-based side beat the Blue Bulls at Loftus Versfeld last week and now the win in the City of Roses gives them even more momentum before they play the Sharks next week at Coca-Cola Park.
The visitors' flyhalf Elton Jantjies was one of the Lions stalwarts, especially with the boot. He kicked seven goals out of nine attempts and contributed 18 points - three conversions and four penalties - in his side's victory over the hosts.
Jantjies kicked the Lions first penalty as early as the first minute and followed it with another three points shortly thereafter to punish the Cheetahs for their initial poor discipline. The Lions themselves also infringed and wing Nico Scheepers brought the Cheetahs back into contention with his boot.
The visitors got the first try when big lock Franco van der Merwe intercepted against the run of play to give his side their first five pointer. Jantjies kicked the conversion to leave the Lions with good momentum.
However, the Cheetahs got back within striking distance when prop Marcel van der Merwe scored from a good rolling maul by the home side. Scheepers converted to add to the three penalties he kicked earlier.
The Lions had the last say in the first stanza when winger Ruan Combrink dived over for his five pointer in the 39th minute. Jantjies converted to leave the visitors leading 20-16 at the break.
The Lions took off again as the second half commenced and winger Deon Helberg ran through the Cheetahs defence for his converted try. Van der Merwe got sin binned in the 50th minute for a professional foul and that left the Lions to regroup. But the hosts struggled to take advantage and instead conceded another couple of penalties which Jantjies slotted with ease.
In the last 15 minutes the Cheetahs came with a huge fightback, but struggled to find space in the Lions' solid defensive structures. The Cheetahs later got some good momentum which the Lions tried to counter, but prop Van der Merwe was again too strong to stop close to the line and scored his second try of the evening. Scheepers converted to leave the Cheetahs ten points adrift in as many minutes. But it just wasn't the Cheetahs night, as Combrink again went over in the corner to give the Lions back-to-back bonus point victories, with the defending champions on course to retain of their title.Scorers:
Tries: Franco van der Merwe, Ruan Combrink (2), Deon Helberg
Conversions: Elton Jantjies
Penalties: Jantjies (4)Free State Cheetahs:
Tries: Marcel van der Merwe (2)
Conversions: Nico Scheepers (2)
Penalties: Scheepers (3)