Cape Town – The Golden Lions have narrowly defeated the Pumas in their hotly contested Currie Cup encounter at Ellis Park in Johannesburg on Saturday.
The Golden Lions won 38-37 after trailing 14-17 at half-time.
The hosts entered the fixture full of confidence having won their last five encounters against the Pumas. They began the game well enough and dominated possession for the opening five minutes.
However, in a bit of foreshadowing of the game as a whole the dominant Lions were caught napping when a sloppy pass fell short of its mark.
Carl Du Preez raced through the line to be the first to the ball, and toe-poked it forward before dotting down over the line to open the scoring for the Pumas. The conversion attempt from Jacobus Marais was successful to make it 7-0.
They hit back moments later though. Despite being pushed all the way back to their own 22 by a resolute Pumas defence, Madosh Tambwe was able to find a gap and raced a full 80 meters to score. Shaun Reynolds’ conversion leveled the scores.
The next 10 minutes went much the same as the first, with the visitors barely able to get their hands on the ball.
They eventually did around the 21st minute and did not waste the rare opportunity. A patient multi-phase attack saw them slowly gain territory until an expansive backline move in midfield created an overlap for Le Roux Roets to race over the line and put his side back in the lead. Marais was accurate again, 14-7 to the Pumas.
To make matters worse for the Lions, they were reduced to 10 men when Rhyno Herbst was sent to the bin for a dangerous tackle at a ruck in the lead up to the try.
Despite being a man down the home side got themselves firmly back onto the front foot. For any casual observer it would have been impossible to tell, without counting, which side had received the yellow card.
It was clear from early on that the Lions were favouring Tambwe’s wing on attack and it paid dividends again with around 10 minutes to go until halftime.
Still with just 14 players on the pitch, the flung it wide and the winger worked his magic to squeeze through the line and, along with Reynolds conversion, get his side back on level terms.
The Pumas would have the last say in the half, though, as Marais kicked a penalty goal to ensure they had the lead at the break.
The home side exploded out of the blocks after half time. They launched a counter attack from the kick off as Reynolds booted it in behind the on-rushing defence, it was picked up and require just one pass, to Tyrone Green, before the try was scored.
Reynolds was accurate once again to bring the score to 21-17 before another Marais penalty made it a one-point ball game.
The Lions forgot how to defend for around 15 minutes as tries from Etienne Taljaard, in the 49th minute, and Morgan Naude, in the 60th minute, sandwiched a couple of Marais penalties and allow the Pumas to seemingly take the game away from the Lions.
The score when they woke up again was 37-21.
However, this appears to be a Lions side that cannot be written off late in games.
Tambwe got his hattrick after a goal line scramble that the TMO ruled in favour of the Lions in the 65th minute before he picked up an incredible fourth try of the game five minutes later.
Great link up play between Green, who had switched wings to aid the attack, and Tambwe saw the latter over for a truly fantastic try.
Reynolds boot had gone cold, though, and both tries went unconverted, leaving the Lions six points behind at 37-31.
The Lions attacked and attacked and attacked. The Pumas put up a valiant defence, but eventually after a near endless stream of bodies being thrown at their line, Reynolds was able to break through and score.
With the game on his shoulders, he re-found his kicking boots to convert the try and hand the Lions a thrilling win.
Tries: Madosh Tambwe (4), Tyrone Green, Shaun Reynolds
Conversions: Reynolds (4)
Tries: Carel du Preez, Le Roux Roets, Etienne Taljaard, Morgan Naude
Conversions: Kobus Marais (4)
Penalties: Marais (3)
15 Tyrone Green, 14 Madosh Tambwe, 13 Wandisile Simelane, 12 Wayne van der Bank, 11 Stean Pienaar, 10 Shaun Reynolds, 9 Ross Cronje (captain), 8 James Venter, 7 Vincent Tshituka, 6 Marnus Schoeman, 5 Reinhard Nothnagel, 4 Rhyno Herbst, 3 Johannes Jonker, 2 Jan-Henning Campher, 1 Dylan Smith.
Substitutes: 16 Pieter Jansen, 17 Sti Sithole, 18 Jacobie Adriaanse, 19 Ruben Schoeman, 20 Len Massyn, 21 Dillon Smit, 22 Manuel Rass, 23 Jan-Louis la Grange
15 Devon Williams, 14 Morne Joubert, 13 Neil Maritz, 12 Ryan Nell (captain), 11 Etienne Taljaard, 10 Jacobus Marais, 9 Reynier van Rooyen, 8 Willie Engelbrecht, 7 Hermanus Carel du Preez, 6 Jeandre Rudolph, 5 Stefan Willemse, 4 Le Roux Roets, 3 Marne Coetzee, 2 Marko Janse van Rensburg, 1 Andrew Beerwinkel.
Substitutes: 16 Cornelius Els, 17 Wikus Groenewald, 18 Hilton Lobberts, 19 Phumzile Maqondwana, 20 Ashlon Davids, 21 Christopher Smith, 22 Henko Marais, 23 Morgan Naude