The MTN Golden Lions turned in a strong second-half performance to sink the Vodacom Blue Bulls 35-26 (halftime 13-7) in their Absa Currie Cup match at Ellis Park in Johannesburg on Saturday.
The Lions held a slim six-point lead at halftime, despite the Bulls twice having players yellow-carded in the first 40 minutes.
However, the hosts made sure of moving into third place on the log as they finally began finishing off some of what had been promising attacking situations in the first half.
The Lions ran in five tries to four and were full value for their win despite Bulls wing Bjorn Basson scoring two tries for the visitors.
The hosts began the match in wonderful fashion, running the ball at almost any opportunity, and they grabbed their first try just five minutes after kick-off when right wing Andries Coetzee showed superb power to fend off two would-be tacklers on a 22-metre run.
Flyhalf Elton Jantjies kicked a penalty four minutes later before the Lions stretched their lead to 13 points after a superb try from the impressive flank Jaco Kriel.
The Lions switched play from the right-hand side of the field to the left with Kriel bursting free on the Blue Bulls’ 10-metre line before galloping clear on his way to an unconverted try.
The visitors picked up their first yellow-card, in the 19th minute, when fullback Clayton Blommetjies tripped Lions wing Anthony Volmink.
The Bulls did well not to concede any points while Blommetjies was off the field and they managed to finally get themselves onto the scoreboard thanks to a wonderful individual try from scrumhalf Rudy Paige who broke from a ruck before setting off on a sniping 22-metre run which saw him step his way to a converted try.
Seven minutes before the break the Bulls were down to 14 men again after their flyhalf Tony Jantjies was sin-binned for killing the ball just two metres from his own tryline with the Lions hard on attack.
Despite their numerical advantage the Bulls managed to reach the break without conceding any more points.
However, the Lions added to their score four minutes after the restart when tighhead prop Ruan Dreyer smashed his way over from close-range despite three would-be tacklers holding onto the powerfully built front-rower.
The Lions dominated territory and possession in the first 10 minutes of the second half and it was only their inability to finish off promising moves that kept them from adding to their lead.
They were left to rue their lack of a killer instinct as the Bulls struck back through a 55th-minute try from Basson, who had been released from the Springbok squad to play in the game, with Basson cutting in off his wing to scythe through the Lions’ defence on his way to a converted try.
But the Lions struck back just two minutes later when replacement prop Jacques van Rooyen barged his way over for a close-range try after a searing break from scrumhalf Ross Cronje.
The hosts were starting to finish off their moves and they took the ball through six phases as fullback Marnitz Boshoff stretched over to score in the tackle.
Boshoff added a long-range penalty before the Bulls struck back thanks to a wonderful break from Basson which saw the winger carry the ball for all of 60 metres before off-loading to his inside centre Francois Venter who went over in the corner to make the score 32-19 after 73 minutes.
Basson rounded off a move in the last minute to complete his double and secure a four-try bonus point.
MTN Golden Lions – Tries: Andries Coetzee, Jaco Kriel, Ruan Dreyer, Jacques van Rooyen, Marnitz Boshoff; Conversion: Elton Jantjies (2); Penalties: Jantjies, Boshoff.
Vodacom Blue Bulls – Tries: Rudy Paige, Bjorn Basson (2), Francois Venter; Conversions: Tony Jantjies (3).