With 20 minutes to go at Emirates Airline Park, they were in deep trouble, down by 21-37 with the Phakisa Pumas seemingly calling all the shots, but the Xerox Golden Lions dug deep and scored three unanswered tries for a full-house of five log points.
The visitors will kick themselves for letting this one slip after they dominated proceedings for most of the first hour of the match, capitalising on their opponents’ mistakes and keeping the score board ticking over with regularity. They scored four tries, but leaked six in a very entertaining match in the opening round of the Currie Cup – sponsored by DirectAxis Financial Services.
The first half delivered some exciting rugby as both sides showed attacking intent, although there were too many missed tackles. The Xerox Golden Lions enjoyed more possession early on, but despite this, the Phakisa Pumas used their opportunities to lead 14-7 after 20 minutes, and 17-14 at the break.
Both teams scored two tries apiece before the break, with Tambwe crossing twice for the hosts, while Carel du Preez (flank) and Le Roux Roets (lock) bagged the Phakisa Pumas’ five-pointers and Kobus Marais (flyhalf) added two conversions and a penalty goal.
The Xerox Golden Lions came out with a bang in the second half as Tyrone Green (fullback) scored their third try less than 30 seconds after the restart. Going behind on the score board for the first time in the match seemed to galvanise the visitors, and for the next 20 minutes there was only one team on the field.
The Phakisa Pumas scored 20 unanswered points in this time, with tries by Etienne Taljaard (wing) and Morgan Naude (replacement prop), while Marais converted both and added two more penalty goals as the Lowvelders stretched their lead to 37-21.
Buoyed by a dominant performance by their pack late in the match, the Xerox Golden Lions kept fighting and played themselves back into contention, with two more Tambwe tries, in the 64th and 69th minutes.
Shaun Reynolds (flyhalf) missed both conversions, but compensated for those kicks two minutes before the end when he scored under the sticks and added the extras as the Xerox Golden Lions scraped through.
Xerox Golden Lions 38 (14) – Tries: Madosh Tambwe (4), Tyrone Green, Shaun Reynolds. Conversions: Reynolds (4).
Phakisa Pumas 37 (17) – Tries: Carel du Preez, Le Roux Roets, Etienne Taljaard, Morgan Naude. Conversions: Kobus Marais (4). Penalty goals: Marais (3).