Lions snatch dramatic draw
Bloemfontein - The Golden Lions staged a fine comeback to snatch a 25-25 (halftime 15-5) draw against the Free State Cheetahs in their Absa Currie Cup match in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
The Cheetahs will be kicking themselves because they seemed to have the win sown up with a 25-11 lead going into the last four minutes. But things quickly turned sour for the home side after replacement scrumhalf Tewis de Bruyn was yellow-carded for collapsing a maul and the Lions wasted no time in making their second-half dominance count.
In a ferocious game of rugby, played in fantastic spirit, the Cheetahs opened up a sizeable lead thanks to the top-class kicking of flyhalf Johan Goosen and a second-half try by scrumhalf Piet van Zyl.
Goosen went off early in the second half after a terrible clash of heads with Lions fullback Jaco Taute, a hushed crowd seeing him strapped on to a stretcher. But the 19-year-old was able to make a groggy appearance at the post-match presentation to receive his man of the match award.
There was very little in the first-half possession and territory stats, but the Lions lacked continuity thanks to an awful display at the breakdowns, where they failed dismally to adapt to the interpretations of referee Marius Jonker.
He began his torment of the Lions in the fourth minute as he penalised flank Derick Minnie for playing the ball on the ground and Goosen stepped up to convert the kick (3-0).
The Lions replied, though, with the opening try of the match as they quickly spread the ball wide and wing Deon van Rensburg did superbly well as he held off prop Coenie Oosthuizen on the touchline and managed to pop a pass inside for flank Cobus Grobbelaar to score.
When the Cheetahs played the Lions in Johannesburg back in August, it was their goalkicking that let them down in a 10-17 defeat, but Goosen made it clear that was not going to be a problem on Saturday, slotting another penalty in the 12th minute. Many sage critics believe the Grey College product is the real deal, not just because he has a massive, seemingly unerring boot. It was Goosen's break that led to the penalty, although it seemed harsh of Jonker to adjudge Lions scrumhalf Michael Bondesio to have tackled flank Philip van der Walt while he was on the ground, because the attacking player ran into his legs.
Goosen's opposite number Elton Jantjies has also been in excellent form this season, but he had an off day on Saturday and he missed the conversion of the Lions' try as well as a 17th-minute penalty. Goosen rubbed it in with an exceptional 40-metre drop goal after strong driving by the Cheetahs forwards seven minutes later.
Goosen ended an outstanding first half with two more penalties and the home side were looking good at 15-5 to the good.
The Lions dominated possession from the outset of the second half, but their efforts would be stymied by poor decision-making, basic errors or a turnover at the breakdown.
Cheetahs wing Ryno Benjamin was quickly on to outside centre Doppies la Grange as he took a poor, looping pass from Jantjies, and he then hacked through the dropped ball. A push on wing Michael Killian as he ran back to pick up the ball went unpunished by Jonker, and, after a couple of rucks, Van Zyl sniped over for Free State's only try. Sias Ebersohn, a fine flyhalf in his own right, slotted the conversion (25-8), his first kick at goal after replacing the unfortunate Goosen.
Benjamin quickly undid his good work by going offsides at a ruck, presenting Jantjies with a penalty (11-25).
The Lions continued to dominate, but the turning point would be the 74th minute when De Bruyn was given his marching orders. The visitors quickly cut the deficit to 18-25 as replacement prop Jacobie Adriaanse burrowed over from close range and Jantjies converted the try.
The levelling-try was a marvellous effort by the Lions as replacement hooker Martin Bezuidenhout burst from a ruck and made an excellent offload in the tackle to replacement flank Warren Whiteley. The Durban product went on a great run, drew the defender perfectly and sent Killian speeding away for the try.
Jantjies put his earlier kicking woes behind him to curl the tricky conversion over and ensure an important share of the spoils for the Lions.
Toyota Free State Cheetahs - Try: Piet van Zyl. Conversion: Sias Ebersohn. Penalties: Johan Goosen (5), Ebersohn.
MTN Golden Lions - Tries: Cobus Grobbelaar, Jacobie Adriaanse, Michael Killian. Conversions: Elton Jantjies (2). Penalties: Jantjies (2).
Free State Cheetahs:
15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Ryno Benjamin, 13 Robert Ebersohn, 12 Philip Snyman, 11 Cameron Jacobs, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Ashley Johnson, 7 Philip van der Walt, 6 Lappies Labuschagne, 5 Izak van der Westhuizen, 4 Francois Uys, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Adriaan Strauss (captain), 1 Marcel van der Merwe
Substitutes: 16 Hercu Liebenberg, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 19 Boom Prinsloo, 20 Tewis de Bruyn, 21 Sias Ebersohn, 22 Andries Strauss
15 Jaco Taute, 14 Deon van Rensburg, 13 Doppies la Grange, 12 Alwyn Hollenbach, 11 Michael Killian, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Michael Bondesio, 8 Joshua Strauss (captain), 7 Derick Minnie, 6 Cobus Grobbelaar, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Michael Rhodes, 3 Patric Cilliers, 2 Bandise Maku, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg
Substitutes: 16 Martin Bezuidenhout, 17 Jacobie Adriaanse, 18 David Bulbring, 19 Warren Whiteley, 20 Burton Francis, 21 James Kamana, 22 Dylan des Fountain