Golden Lions charge to victory
Marais Schmidt (Gallo Images)
Johannesburg - The Golden Lions ran powerfully with the ball as they charged to a 71-25 (half-time 24-6) victory over the Griffons in their Vodacom Cup match at Coca-Cola Park in Johannesburg on Saturday.
The Griffons were outmatched up front and poor defensively, allowing a lively Lions backline to cut them apart, and the Northern Free Staters eventually conceded 11 tries.
The visitors started well enough, with flyhalf Reinard Erwee kicking a fourth-minute penalty to convert promising territory into points.
But the tightness of the Lions' defence was such that the Griffons had to work hard for their points, while the sharpness of the Lions' young midfield - flyhalf Marais Schmidt and centres Robert de Bruyn and BJ Moolman - meant the scoreboard became very ugly for the Northern Free Staters.
The Lions backs called the tune early on as Schmidt's inside pass to De Bruyn led to the opening try and wing Anthony Volmink fed fullback Ruan Combrinck for the second try in the 13th minute.
Outside centre Moolman had a top-class game and scored two tries, although the grounding for his first five-pointer looked rather fishy after he had powered down the left-hand side and dotted down with just a finger's worth of downward pressure in opposite number Werner Griesel's tackle.
The Griffons were trailing 17-3 but seemed to be making a strong finish to the half as Erwee kicked another penalty and fantastic runs by fullback Virgil Russel and left wing Shane Hancke were both stopped a metre from the tryline.
The Lions' clearance after the hooter went back to Hancke and he counter-attacked, but the Griffons lost the ball forward. The Lions then spread the ball wide and Moolman went sprinting over for the try from 55 metres out after throwing an outrageous dummy to befuddle the Northern Free State defence.
Schmidt added his second conversion of the half to give the Lions a 24-6 half-time lead and they put the Griffons to the sword after the break.
Lock Paul Willemse charged over from a ruck to open the second-half scoring, before burly centre Japie Nel dived over to give the Griffons some cheer.
Tighthead prop Ruan Dreyer, who had also given the Griffons a tough time in the scrums, burst from a ruck to score in the 52nd minute, Schmidt's fourth conversion taking the score to 38-11, but the Griffons were still fighting, their efforts bringing a second try - replacement scrumhalf Tertius Carse breaking clear from a ruck, feeding prop Kewan Voysey, whose running and handling skills gave Russel the time and space to score.
Replacement flank Etienne Oosthuizen then scored for the Lions from his first touch of the ball, before Volmink scored a great try from the kick-off as he weaved his way out and in from the halfway line.
Volmink became the second Lions player to score two tries in the match with his intercept effort in the 76th minute, before the Griffons' flanks, Willie Britz and Martin Sithole, combined superbly for a try to the latter.
Lions' replacement wing JR Esterhuizen had been watching most of the match from the sideline, but took out his frustration in the last two minutes with two dazzling tries.
The final two points of the match came via the boot of replacement flyhalf Guy Cronje, as the Lions emphatically demonstrated the gap between the resources of the big unions and the minnows.
The bonus-point victory lifts the Lions to within touching distance of the North Section leaders, while it increases the misery of the Griffons, who have lost all three of their matches by wide margins. Scorers:
Tries: Robert de Bruyn, Ruan Combrinck, BJ Moolman (2), Paul Willemse, Ruan Dreyer, Etienne Oosthuizen, Anthony Volmink (2), JR Esterhuizen (2)
Conversions: Marais Schmidt (6), Guy Cronje (2).Griffons:
Tries: Japie Nel, Virgil Russel, Martin van Wyk
Conversions: Tiaan van Wyk (2)
Penalties: Reinard Erwee (2)