Lions hold off Griquas
Johannesburg - The Golden Lions opened up a 10-point lead at the top of the Absa Currie Cup Premier Division when they withstood a brave second-half comeback by Griquas to run out 41-25 (half-time 20-6) winners at Coca-Cola Park in Johannesburg on Friday night.
The home side's six-try victory was their eighth in nine matches and takes them to 37 log points - 10 ahead of Western Province and 11 ahead of the defending champion Sharks, both of whom are in action on Saturday.
The Lions were full value for the win once again, with coach John Mitchell's charges producing some excellent attacking rugby in the first half to go with a good defensive effort in the second when Griquas threatened to spoil their party.
The visitors were dealt an early blow when flyhalf Earl Rose was yellow-carded by Mark Lawrence for a professional foul, an indiscretion that sparked the Lions into action.
Teams reduced to 14 men sometimes are able to weather the storm without any damage done on the scoreboard - but this wasn't one of those occasions.
In fact, the Lions scored three tries in Rose's absence, in the 16th, 23rd and 25th minutes - to all but kill the game off within the opening half hour.
Flyhalf Elton Jantjies put his side 3-0 ahead before right wing Deon van Rensburg got the first of two on the night when he barged over in the right-hand corner after sustained pressure on the visitors.
Tighthead prop Patric Cilliers teamed up with former Sharks teammate Michael Rhodes for the Lions' second when he crashed through from close range for Jantjies to make it 15-0.
But the best try of the three openers was that of left wing Michael Killian, who was freed down the left-hand touchline by a smart off-load from Bandise Maku.
Killian, who just a few years ago was still playing flyhalf for NMMU in the EP club leagues, showed just how far he has come, and how much he has developed as a finishing wing-cum-fullback, when he danced around Sarel Pretorius before showing centre Wilmaure Louw a clean pair of heels to scoot over in the corner.
At 20-0, Griquas looked dead and buried, but two penalties from fullback Rudi Vogt kept them in the hunt at the break.
But no sooner had play restarted than it was Van Rensburg who found himself visiting the tryline after an excellent one-two, one-two down the right-hand touchline with fullback Jaco Taute to give the Lions the bonus point.
Jantjies' conversion made it 27-6 but Taute soon went from hero to villain when he tip-tackled eighthman Jonathan Mokuena to earn himself a yellow card.
But unlike Griquas, the Lions were able to absorb the pressure and indeed extended their lead when an incisive Jantjies break set up centre Alwyn Hollenbach for a try near the posts. 34-6.
Griquas finally registered their first try on the hour when Mokuena dived over in the left-hand corner after Rose had found space with a long pass.
The visitors followed it up with another try, to hooker Ryno Barnes, to reduce the deficit to 16 points after Vogt's successful conversion.
Things got even more interesting when Doppies la Grange was sin-binned by Lawrence for failing to release in the tackle.
Down to 14 men yet again, it was Rose who capitalised, and who made amends for his earlier indiscretion, to break through and dot down under the posts to make it a nine-point game.
But that was the closest they'd get, with fullback Jaco Taute capping off a great night at the back with a try after the hooter.
Tries: Deon van Rensburg (2), Patric Cilliers, Michael Killian, Alwyn Hollenbach, Jaco Taute
Conversions: Elton Jantjies (4)
Tries: Jonathan Mokuena, Ryno Barnes, Earl Rose
Conversions: Rudi Vogt (2)
Penalties: Vogt (2)