Lions keep title defence alive
Brendon Atwell
September 30, 2016

The Xerox Golden Lions kept their hopes alive of defending their Currie Cup title with a 28-16 (halftime 0-10) victory over the Cell C Sharks at Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg on Friday.

The Lions, who needed a victory to move into the top four, scored three tries to one and overturned a 10-point halftime deficit to book a trip to Bloemfontein to face off against the unbeaten Toyota Free State Cheetahs in two weeks' time.

Fullback Curwin Bosch opened the scoring for the visitors after 11 minutes after a tense opening period.

Lions flyhalf Jako van der Walt failed to level matters after 14 minutes, which allowed the Sharks to gain some momentum.

Midway through the first half scrumhalf Michael Claasens darted around the field to score the opening try which Bosch converted to give the men from Durban a 10-point lead.

Both sides struggled with their kicking as Van der Walt missed his second kick of the night before Bosch failed with two penalty attempts at the end of the first half.

Bosch extended the Sharks' lead to 13 points four minutes after the restart but the Lions came roaring back as flanker Kwagga Smith rounded off an excellent move to score the first of the home side's tries, which was converted by Van der Walt.

Van der Walt reduced the deficit to just three points with his first successful penalty goal after flank Francois Kleynhans was penalised and sent to the sin-bin for 10 minutes.

The Sharks pushed back after the restart and Bosch was on song again with his third penalty to restore the six-point advantage.

But Howard Mnisi showed some great pace to score in the corner after the Lions let the ball do the work but Van der Walt was unable to add the extra points, leaving the Lions just a point behind.

Fullback Andries Coetzee took over the kicking duties from Van der Walt and was immediately successful with a penalty after 63 minutes to hand the Lions the lead for the first time in the match.

Mnisi's replacement, Sylvain Mahuza, scored the third try with 10 minutes remaining on the stadium clock, and with Coetzee slotting the conversion, the home side stepped into the safe-zone with a nine point cushion.

The visitors suffered their second yellow card of the afternoon when centre Andre Esterhuizen was sent packing with just four minutes left on the clock and Coetzee slotted the resulting penalty to send the Lions into the playoffs.

DHL Western Province's victory over the Boland Cavaliers at at DHL Newlands means the Durbanites will be watching the semifinals from the comfort of their couches.


Xerox Golden Lions - Tries: Howard Mnisi, Kwagga Smith, Sylvain Mahuza; Conversions: Jako van der Walt, Andries Coetzee; Penalties; Van der Walt, Coetzee (2)

Cell C Sharks - Try: Michael Claasens; Conversion: Curwin Bosch; Penalties: Bosch (3)

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