The MTN Golden Lions produced a scintillating display of attacking rugby to move back to the top of the Absa Currie Cup log with a 32-23 win over the Vodacom Blue Bulls at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday night.
The defending champs looked way too classy on attack for the home side, winning the Jukskei derby with ease and collecting all five points on offer to remind the rest of the competition they won’t be giving up their Currie Cup title just yet.
Led by their talisman Elton Jantjies and with some telling blows in the backline from man of the match Lionel Mapoe, the Lions utilised the width of the field and exploited some poor tackling by the Bulls to ensure a good victory.
Both Western Province and Free State could leapfrog them later in the evening, but the Lions are definitely looking like a team with title aspirations once again.
The same cannot be said for the Blue Bulls, who, although they were better than their 40-point drubbing at Newlands last weekend, were never good enough to get the victory they so desperately need to save face, and were outplayed in almost every facet on the night.
The Bulls moved to the bottom of the Currie Cup log with the loss, as Griquas leapfrogged them with their victory over the Sharks, meaning the pressure will be on for coach Pine Pienaar in a union used to much better results.
But the night belonged to the Lions, who deserved their victory over the old foe. The Bulls will, however, be kicking themselves, as their flyhalf Louis Fouche left 13 points on the table with missed kicks.
There was further good news for the visitors, as Jaco Taute produced an exceptional performance as a substitute, and it won’t be long before he gets a call-up to the Bok setup.
The Bulls were the first to land a blow, with halfback Ruan Snyman looping through a gap to send the ball wide to Clayton Blommetjies, who returned the favour to the scrumhalf for the opening try. For a moment it looked as if all was well again at Loftus, especially as Fouche extended the lead to 8-3 with the boot.
But slowly the Lions began to turn the tide. Through some great ball from their forwards, who slowly were getting the upper hand, they were able to deliver a platform from which Elton Jantjies could play, and the flyhalf sparkled with the ball he had.
To be fair, the Bulls' backline needs to seriously have a look at their tackling technique. After the horrors of Newlands, the Bulls' backs repeated some of the same poor tackling, and it cost plenty.
While the Lions struggled to break through in the opening half hour, they struck two blows – one either side of halftime – to grab the ascendency.
First Deon Helberg, a Bulls reject, went in at the corner after the Lions stretched the Bulls' defence close to the line, and then after the break, the Bulls fell off three tackles on Mapoe, before he sent the ball wide for Alwyn Hollenbach to run in for the try.
The Bulls looked as if they were still in it, with Francois Venter grabbing a ball that popped out of the ruck to run in untouched for a try.
But it wasn’t long before Jantjies produced a moment of magic. The flyhalf chipped the ball over the defence, collected and put Taute away for an excellent try that flummoxed the Bulls' players.
The Bulls got themselves within range again as Blommetjies finished off a blindside move with Rudy Paige to bring them within two, but Fouche’s conversion was missed and the Lions took the space they were given to finish off the game.
Another attack and Warren Whiteley was in at the corner, but the TMO disallowed the try for a forward pass. Moments later, the ball squirted out of the ensuing scrum, with Lions halfback Michael Bondesio snatching it and sending it wide for Mapoe to seal the match in the corner.
Vodacom Blue Bulls – Tries: Ruan Snyman, Clayton Blommetjies, Francois Venter. Conversions: Louis Fouche. Penalties: Fouche (2).
MTN Golden Lions – Tries: Deon Helberg, Alwyn Hollenbach, Jaco Taute, Lionel Mapoe. Conversions: Elton Jantjies (3). Penalties: Jantjies (2).