Lions hold off late Griffons fightback
March 29, 2014

The Golden Lions pulled off a thrilling 40-37 (halftime 19-17) win over the Down Touch Griffons in their North Section Vodacom Cup clash at the Bill Jardine Stadium in Johannesburg on Saturday.

Both teams contributed to a most entertaining spectacle, and despite running in six tries and cruising to a comfortable 40-20 lead midway through the second half, the Lions were forced to cling on for dear life as the Griffons produced a spirited three-try rearguard at the death.

However, it was the Lions who deservedly came away with the victory, and it is they who have crucially moved up to second place in the North Section standings - with the table-topping Steval Pumas just three points ahead of them.

The Griffons will take solace from the two bonus points they gained, but despite some useful displays this season, they remain second from bottom, and have had any hopes of a playoff place dashed by another narrow defeat.

Eighth-man Ruaan Lerm was the man to get the scorers working, as he dotted down in the sixth minute to give the hosts an early five-point lead. But it took just 10 minutes for the Griffons to produce a response, as Martin Sithole's converted try saw the Griffons sneak ahead of their more-fancied opponents by 7-5.

Both sides then hit each other on the counter attack, as winger JR Esterhuizen's try in the 31st minute was offset by Nicky Steyn's first score of the afternoon shortly after.

Thabo Mabuza crashed over the whitewash just two minutes before the break to put his team ahead once again, but Louis Strydom's penalty on the stroke of halftime ensured that the Griffons trailed by just two points when the players walked off the park.

It was to get even better for the visitors when play got underway again, as Strydom put them in front with a second penalty just three minutes into the second period. However, the momentum of the game was to swing dramatically thereafter, as Fanta Qinisile and Lourens Erasmus scored to put the home side well clear, and by the time Lerm claimed his second, the Lions had raced to a seemingly unassailable 40-20 lead within 13 second-half minutes.

But, with the game all but wrapped up, the Lions appeared to take their foot off the gas, and the brave Griffons outfit kept themselves in the hunt courtesy of a try for flanker Wilmar Groenewald and a second for Steyn with five minutes remaining.

Crucially though, substitute kicker Franna du Toit had been unable to slot either conversion, and it came back to haunt the Griffons, as Sithole's second try of the day in injury time proved to be in vain as they fell just three points short of the Lions; forced to settle for the two bonus points that din't do justice to their courageous performance.


GOLDEN LIONS - Tries: Ruaan Lerm (2), JR Esterhuizen, Thabo Mabuza, Fanta Qinisile, Lourens Erasmus; Conversions: Willie du Plessis (5)

DOWN TOUCH GRIFFONS - Tries: Martin Sithole (2), Nicky Steyn (2), Wilmar Groenewald; Conversions: Louis Strydom (2), Franna du Toit; Penalties: Louis Strydom (2)

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