DHL Western Province secured a home semifinal berth as they beat the MTN Golden Lions 36-23 (halftime 18-9) in their Currie Cup match at DHL Newlands in Cape Town on Saturday.
The bonus-point win also moved Province into first place on the log, one point ahead of the Sharks with next week’s match between the two team set to decide who will finish top of the table.
The first 30 minutes of the first half was dominated by the boot with Lions flyhalf Marnitz Boshoff kicking three penalties while his opposite number Demetri Catrakilis kicked two penalties of his own.
The match was played in windy and cold conditions with the Lions having the wind at their backs in the first half and they shaded the opening exchanges.
Unfortunately, the first half was mostly a stop-start affair with both teams guilty of conceding a number of penalties.
However, Province slowly but surely started to find their rhythm, and a few gaps in the Lions’ defence, and inside centre Damian de Allende went over for the hosts' first try, in the 33rd minute, after the home team took the ball through nine phases before spreading the ball wide which allowed De Allende to find some space on the outside.
Western Province were winning the battle at the breakdown, which was placing the Lions under extra pressure.
Province breached the Lions’ defence once again as the half drew to a close, when they won a scrum five metres from the visitors' tryline which led to flank Deon Fourie barging his way over for a converted try as the hosts opened up an 18-9 lead at the break.
The home team opened the second-half scoring just four minutes after the restart thanks to a Catrakilis penalty and they extended their lead less than a minute later thanks to a superb try from right wing Gerhard van den Heever who sidestepped his way over from 22 metres out.
The second half was proving to be a far more open affair than the first with both teams opting to run the ball whenever the opportunity presented itself.
The Lions finally grabbed their first try, in the 57th minute, thanks to a powerful 24-metre rolling maul which saw flank Derick Minnie crash over in the right-hand corner for a converted score.
Minnie scored his second try with 15 minutes left in the match when he dotted down after another rolling maul following a Lions’ lineout five metres from Province’s line.
Boshoff’s conversion narrowed the gap to just five points but Province struck back almost immediately with a penalty from replacement flyhalf Kurt Coleman.
The match was assured of a grandstand finish when Province hooker Scarra Ntubeni was yellow-carded in the 73rd minute after repeated infringements at the breakdown by the hosts.
The Lions spent the rest of the match hard on attack but they were kept out by some desperate defence.
Province finally broke out and grabbed their bonus-point try after the final hooter as they took the ball through eight phases before lock Michael Rhodes went over in the left-hand corner.
DHL Western Province – Tries: Damian de Allende, Deon Fourie, Gerhard van den Heever, Michael Rhodes; Conversions: Demetri Catrakilis (2); Penalties: Catrakilis (3), Kurt Coleman.
MTN Golden Lions – Tries: Derick Minnie (2); Conversions: Marnitz Boshoff (2); Penalties: Boshoff (3).