Port Elizabeth – The Golden Lions got their Currie Cup rugby title bid back on track when they scored a bonus-point win in overcoming a courageous Eastern Province Kings outfit 41-22 at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth on Saturday night.
With Ruan Combrinck in outstanding form with the boot, slotting all seven of his kicks at goal with five conversions and two penalties, the Lions will be satisfied to come away from Port Elizabeth with five points.
In addition, the Lions crossed for five tries, putting the seal on the match when flank Derick Minnie scored their final try in the last minute.
However, the Kings will take some positives from a match which was in complete contrast to the 60-19 thumping they received in the Johannesburg encounter.
In fact, they forced the Lions to reconsider their tactics in the second half when the visitors decided to kick their goals instead of kicking for touch to force a maul from five-metre lineouts.
In the first half, the Lions ignored several possible attempts at goal, but changed their thinking in the second half when they found themselves trailing 22-21 with 20 minutes remaining.
Combrinck slotted two penalties after high tackles to put them back in front at 27-22 and they finished strongly with lock Franco Mostert powering for a try in the 70th minute to virtually seal the match.
After conceding two early tries to Jaco Kriel and Ruan Dreyer to trail 14-0, the Kings received an injection of confidence when they powered their way over the Lions’ tryline to be awarded a penalty try.
They followed this with excellent tries by Shane Gates and Siviwe Soyizwapi to underline their skills, but the Lions stayed ahead 21-19 at half-time when Schalk van der Merwe burst over after receiving an inside pass at short range.
The Lions showed excellent ball retention on attack and their powerful charges often had the Kings on the back foot, and this paved the way for their five tries and the ultimate winning effort.
The Kings took the lead when flyhalf George Whitehead slotted a drop goal in the 45th minute, and it proved to be an entertaining contest as the sides struggled for supremacy.
Eventually the Lions’ greater experience and urgency came to the fore as they took control in the final 20 minutes for a hard-earned and well-deserved victory.
Lions – 41 (21): Tries by Jaco Kriel, Ruan Dreyer, Schalk van der Merwe, Franco Mostert, Derick Minnie; Conversions: Ruan Combrinck (5); Penalties: Combrinck (2)
Kings – 22 (19): Tries: Shane Gates, Siviwe Soyizwapi, penalty try; Conversions: Scott van Breda (2); Drop goal: George Whitehead
15. Scott van Breda, 14. Siyanda Grey, 13. Ronnie Cooke, 12. Shane Gates, 11. Siviwe Soyizwapi, 10. George Whitehead, 9. Kevin Luiters, 8. Aidon Davis, 7. Paul Schoeman, 6. Thembelani Bholi, 5. Steven Sykes, 4. David Bulbring, 3. Tom Botha, 2. Edgar Marutlulle, 1. BG Uys,
Substitutes: 16. Mike van Vuuren, 17. Charles Marais, 18. Shaun McDonald, 19. Stefan Willemse, 20. Tobie Botes, 21. Dwayne Jenner, 22. Ntabeni Dukisa
15. Ruan Combrinck, 14. Lionel Mapoe, 13. Stokkies Hanekom, 12. Alwyn Hollenbach, 11. Courtnall Skosan, 10. Andries Coetzee, 9. Ross Cronje, 8. Willie Britz, 7. Warwick Tecklenburg, 6. Jaco Kriel, 5. Franco Mostert, 4. MB Lusaseni, 3. Ruan Dreyer, 2. Armand van der Merwe, 1. Schalk van der Merwe
Substitutes: 16. Willie Wepener, 17. Jacques van Rooyen, 18. Martin Muller, 19. Derick Minnie, 20. Kwagga Smith, 21. Ricky Schroeder, 22. Howard Mnisi