Pumas overcome 11-point deficit to snatch win in Currie Cup clash with Lions
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JOHANNEBURG – A breathless second half in which six tries were scored and the Pumas overturned a 11 point deficit by scoring four of those propelled the Nelspruit-based outfit to a brilliant victory over the Lions in the Currie Cup at Emirates Airline Park on Friday afternoon.
It was yet another defeat for the Joburgers, their third in a row, and many will now argue that Ivan van Rooyen's charges are on the precipice of a crisis as they continue to be their own worst enemies. This result presents another outing where they failed to remain calm, or take all their chances and what makes it all the more disappointing is that they were in control during the first half, but fell to the wayside in the second.
After all, it was the Lions who striked first; Rabz Maxwane cantering to an easy, opening try, a pass floated over the top by flyhalf Jordan Hendrikse. It was the direct result of a yellow card to Willie Engelbrecht from continued pressure. And that pressure also resulted in a penalty try moments later.
A brilliantly finished Devon Williams try squeezed in-between kept the Pumas in the encounter but the visitors were under the pump regarding penalties and in the 30th minute received their second yellow card, this time Pieter van Vuren falling fell of referee Marius van der Westhuizen. From the resultant penalty line-out, the Lions flexed their muscle, mauling their way with control and intent, hooker PJ Botha crashing over the line amongst a mess of bodies.
The Lions were three tires to the good, but will probably feel that they were worth much more. They managed to fluff a few chances, either through poor handling, or not protecting their ball in the red zone and the often staunch defence of the Pumas.
The Pumas, however, refused to bow to the pressure and started the second half pumping their legs and piling on the pressure to secure three penalties in a row, and driving to an important try through lock Shane Kirkwood to close the gap by four points. And they continued that rip-roaring assault on the Lions' line, upping the tempo and their play to good effect to leave the hosts chasing shadows.
Etienne Taljaard was the beneficiary of their renewed vigour and confidence, scoring a brace, the first by dotting down for the Pumas to take a 24-21 lead, and that lead was extended moments later with Erich Cronje peeled off another powerful maul to score the bonus point try.
The momentum was now fully the way of the Pumas, the Lions looking increasingly bewildered by the onslaught, not helped by the sanction to lock FP Pelser. A delightful team try of first phase ball, completed by the pace of Taljaard further extended the lead of the Pumas, and the Lions found themselves 15 point behind and chasing the game with 20 minutes to go.
Despite tries by Courtnall Skosan and Sti Sithole in the final 15 minutes of the match, the Lions could not overcome that lead, suffering another devastating, frustrating loss.
Sigma Lions (21) 33
Tries: Maxwane, Penalty Try, Botha, Skosan, Sithole; Conversions: Hendrikse (2), Zeilinga; Penalty
Yellow Card: FP Pelser
Pumas (10) 36
Try: Williams, Kirkwood, Taljaard (2), Cronje; Conversion: Fouche (3); Penalty: Fouche
Yellow Cards: Engelbrecht, Jansen van Vuren