Credit: Frans Lombard/Lions Rugby Co
The Xerox Lions outscored hosts Toyota Cheetahs by five tries to two in their exciting 39-23 Carling Currie Cup bonus-point victory in Bloemfontein on Saturday afternoon.
The Pride of Jozi lead 13-9 at halftime but then turn on the style after the restart to score four more tries to take the game away from the home side, who struggled to contain the dominating visiting pack in the second half.
This clash in the Free State capital was a much-anticipated affair and a repeat of the 2019 Carling Currie Cup final, while it also marked the teams’ first match-up this season after their Vodacom Super Unlocked game was cancelled.
Experienced Springbok midfielder Frans Steyn kicked a monster penalty goal of 64 meters for the home side to add to the earlier successful attempt by flyhalf Tian Schoeman, to hand the Bloemfontein hosts an early 6-0 advantage.
Schoeman easily slotted a second successful three pointer from the kicking tee after the dependable Lions leader, Elton Jantjies, had opened the visitors’ scoring account with his first penalty goal of the match (9-3).
From then on the momentum swung the way of the visitors, whose more experienced forward pack became more prominent as the first half progressed. They chose to keep the ball in hand and as a result applied a lot of pressure on the home defence.
It was therefore no surprise when former Springbok loose forwarded Alberts, playing at No 4 lock for the red and white jerseys, powered his way through in the 26th minute for the first try of the game. Jantjies made no mistake with the easy conversion to hand his side a one-point lead at 10-9.
Five minutes before the interval Jantjies stepped up to slot another successful penalty goal, a reward for his powerful front row who had forced their opponents to concede another scrum penalty. That meant the Joburg outfit went into the halftime break leading 13-9. The home side made the worst possible start to the second half when conceded no less than three tries inside ten minutes.
Scrumhalf Andre Warner raced through for two five pointers – the first on the back of an excellent break by Jaco Kriel and for the second he finished an eye-pleasing moved initiated by Jantjies.
Former Springbok tighthead Jannie du Plessis was then on hand to finish off a full length of the field move to score his first Carling Currie Cup try for the Joburg-based outfit (32-9). However, the Bloem-side hit back with their first try through replacement scrumhalf Ruben de Haas. That converted try cut the deficit to 32-16 with still plenty of time left on the clock.
The visitors were unrelenting in their forward onslaught and they were soon rewarded with another try scored, this time by No 5 lock Marvin Orie (39-16).
But the Free Staters refused to give up and replacement hooker Marnus van der Merwe was only a few minutes on the field when he stormed over for their second try of the afternoon.
Toyota Cheetahs (9) 22 – Tries: Ruben de Haas, Marnus van der Merwe. Conversions: Tian Schoeman, Frans Steyn. Penalty Goals: Schoeman (2), Steyn.
Xerox Lions (13) 39 – Tries: Willem Alberts, Andre Warner (2), Jannie du Plessis, Marvin Orie. Conversions: Elton Jantjies (4), Penalty Goals: Jantjies (2).