Lions out as Bulls scrape through




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Sport | Rugby

Lions (20) 32 Bulls (26) 33 Lions- Tries: Edwill van der Merwe (2), Francke Horn, penalty try. Conversions: Sanele Nohamba, Gianni Lombard. Penalties: Nohamba (2). Bulls - Tries: Elrigh Louw, David Kriel, Embrose Papier, Mornay Smith, Marcell Coetzee. Conversions: Johan Goosen (4). ● Electrifying at times, but too often enervating, the Lions came up just short in their Currie Cup trans-Juksie derby at Ellis Park yesterday. Their match against the Bulls was in the balance at the death and was ultimately decided when their flyhalf Gianni Lombard’s drop goal drifted wide. The 33-32 win for the Bulls means they leapfrog the Lions on the points table and sustain their hopes of still reaching the semifinals. The defeat for the Lions, however, may well be the end of the road. The Bulls were irresistible at times but they could not sustain their first-half effort. They made the hard yards early on while their short passing game found the Lions defence wanting. Bulls No 8 Elrigh Louw played a strong hand to help get his team on the front foot before the break but it was fellow backrower Marcell Coetzee who stamped his authority on the proceedings when the game was in the balance in the second half. His spoiling hand, especially at the ruck, thwarted the Lions when it mattered most. The Lions were full of basic errors. Their handling was atrocious, their ball protection was poor at the ruck, while their out of hand kicking was, well, out of hand. They played with a lack of control and though the handling errors and poor tactical kicking persisted, they found the necessary consistency elsewhere to drag themselves back into the contest. While Manny Rass, Ruan Venter and JC Pretorius played their part the player who embodied the home team’s fightback was left wing Edwill van der Merwe. His first try was a sensational solo effort. The Lions stole a Bulls feed at the lineout and the ball fell to Van der Merwe on the Lions’ 22. He sped away from Nizaam Carr and Ruan Nortje, and while Embrose Papier optimistically gave chase opposing fullback David Kriel looked to have the Lions’ winger’s run covered. Van der Merwe however breezed past the static Kriel as he set course for the tryline down the right hand touchline and got there despite Papier’s last-gasp tackle. He again beat Papier in the same corner as the Lions dragged themselves back into the contest in the 72nd minute to set up a thrilling climax. The Lions left themselves a lot to do. The Bulls were in total control in the opening half hour, apart from a blemish that allowed Lions No 8 Francke Horn to pounce. Louw though initiated the early breach for the visitors off the back of a solid scrum in which the Lions defenders were drawn to their left, while the No 8 went to their right. Some smart, slick offloading by Ruan Vermaak and Coetzee saw the ball return to Louw, who ran in a splendid opening try. The Bulls asserted themselves even further with tries by David Kriel, Papier and Mornay Smith before the break. Though Smith rounded off another sweeping Bulls attack, the Lions immediately grew in stature. They were well down but gradually clawed their way back into the clash. Elsewhere in the Currie Cup, Griquas beat the Griffons 47-21 in Welkom, Western Province downed the Pumas 22-14 in Cape Town, while the Sharks beat the Cheetahs 35-23. The Sharks’ win brought them within touching distance of the Cheetahs at the top of the table and now only trail on points difference.