The MTN Golden Lions returned to the top of the Absa Currie Cup Premier Division standings with a battling 22-9 win (halftime 6-3) over DHL Western Province in their match at DHL Newlands in Cape Town on Saturday.
The Lions had slipped to second on the log after the Sharks beat the Blue Bulls on Friday but the win over Province saw the Lions move into a three-point lead over the Sharks.
The men from Gauteng were full value for their win as they scored the only try of the match while veteran flyhalf Butch James kicked four penalties and a conversion and generally controlled the game with some fine tactical kicking.
Western Province could only muster two penalties from flyhalf Demetri Catrakilis and one from fullback Joe Pietersen.
Drizzle began falling soon after kick-off which affected some of the early play which was a touch on the dreary side but the Lions had the better of the first quarter as they dominated possession and looked threatening with ball in hand/
But Province ground their way back into the match as the second quarter became a far more even affair.
The visitors opened the scoring through a James penalty in the third minute but Pietersen levelled matters with a 35-metre penalty in the 24th minute.
Tries may have been at a premium but there was no doubt about the commitment from both teams with Province and the Lions competing manfully on defence and the set phases.
Just as it looked as if the two teams would go to the break on level pegging, James stepped up and slotted a close-range penalty in the 38th minute to give the Lions a slim three-point lead at halftime.
James opened the scoring in the second half, three minutes after the restart, with his third penalty but Catrakilis narrowed the gap almost immediately with a penalty of his own.
The hosts levelled matters in the 48th minute through a Catrakilis penalty, after James received a yellow card for a high tackle on Province centre Marcel Brache.
Despite being a man down the Lions regained the lead five minutes later when left wing Ruan Combrinck slotted a penalty.
Province then camped on the Lions’ tryline and even turned down a kickable penalty in favour of a quick tap five metres from the Lions’ tryline but the visitors rose manfully to the challenge and their defence held out until James returned from the sin-bin.
The Lions finally grabbed the first try of the contest, in the 65th minute, when right wing Deon Helberg intercepted a loose pass from Province lock De Kock Steenkamp on the halfway line to gallop clear for a converted score.
James rammed home the Lions’ advantage with a penalty eight minutes before fulltime.
DHL WESTERN PROVINCE – Penalties: Joe Pietersen, Demetri Catrakilis (2).
MTN GOLDEN LIONS – Try: Deon Helberg; Conversion: Butch James; Penalties: James (4), Ruan Combrinck.