Golden Lions wing Madosh Tambwe scored four tries to help his side kick off their Currie Cup campaign with a narrow 38-37 win over Pumas at Ellis Park.
The Pumas had a comfortable 37-21 lead with less than 15 minutes to play.
Then Golden Lions kicked into overdrive, scoring three tries – a brace from Tambwe and one from flyhalf Shaun Reynolds- to snatch the win from Pumas grasp.
There was some last-minute field adjustment with the Ellis Park ground staff having narrow the field by two metres.
After field measurements were settled, good sunny conditions greeted the two teams which certainly made for running rugby. The teams had a moment of silence for 1995 World Cup winner James Small, who passed away on Wednesday. Small made his debut at Ellis Park and went onto to accumulated 47 Test caps.
The Pumas were first on the board courtesy of a Lions error aided by a defensive confusion, made sure Pumas flank Carel du Preez kicked a loose ball downfield before diving over the line for the first try of the match.
Jacobus Marais added the extras handing his side the 7-0 lead after just five minutes.
Pumas executed their set-piece perfectly, however, a turnover on their 22 metre handed possession to the Lions. Centre Wayne van der Bank and Wandisile Simelane linked up on the 50-metre line before sending Tambwe over the line for his first of four tries of the day. Reynolds added the east extras to level the score at 7-all.
Strong carries by Marnus Schoeman handed the momentum to the Lions, they managed to camp inside the Pumas’ 22, however a foul at the line-out diminished all their efforts. They really struggled to find space in the face of quick defence and big Pumas hits.
As the first quarter went by the Pumas took the lead, former Waratah Le Roux Roets diving over the line after Marais made a break and rounded a defender before handing it the tall lock for the five points. Marais made no mistake to extend the lead, 14-7.
To make it the task more challenging for the Gauteng side, Rhyno Herbst was handed a yellow card for a dangerous clean on Pumas’ flyhalf Marais prior to the try. Furthermore, a missed penalty kick by Reynolds certainly did not help matters.
Nonetheless, with 10 minutes left of the first half, the hosts kept themselves in the hunt as another relentless bashing run by Schoeman got the side in the right area. The Lions set up multiple phases inside the 22 before shifting the ball wide to Tambwe who went over the line for his brace. There was some question around the grounding, however, referee Rasta Rasivhenge had no problem and Reynolds added the conversion to level matters.
There were very little separating the sides, except a successful Marais penalty kick – thanks to a powerful scrum – that handed his side the 17-14 lead after the first stanza.
Despite the Pumas coming out with a different strip, more grey instead of pink, it was the Lions who made a phenomenal start. From the restart, the Lions collected the ball and recycled the ball before individual brilliance by Tyron Green – breaking a few tackles outpacing Devon Willimas – got him over the line. Reynolds added the extras for the lead, 21-17.
Minutes later the Lions conceded a penalty, and Marais took full advantage to narrow the deficit to just one point.
Pumas had a penalty inside the Lions’ 10 metre when Herbst made a late tackle on Reynier van Rooyen – a very lucky escape for the lock who already spent time in the sin bin.
Instead of going for the poles the Pumas opted for the set-piece and the side was rewarded as the forwards build phases before Marais’ pop pass found Neil Maritz, who shited it wide to Etienne Taljaard. The wing made sure to dive over in the corner to hand his team the lead. Marais from a very acute angle slot over the conversion for the 27-21 lead after 52 minutes of play.
The Pumas pilled on the pressure and took a 30-21 lead thanks to a successful penalty kick by Marais.
On the hour mark, the Pumas produced a marvellous team try, instigated by captain Ryan Nell, the forwards and back produced impressive interplay before Morgan Naude burst over the chalk. Marais kept his 100 per cent kicking success rate with another perfectly executed conversion, 37-21.
Then the drama unfolded. The Pumas failed to keep composure inside their own half and the Lions took full advantage.
They build momentum and got inside the Pumas half before Tambwe went over the line, again the grounding was extremely questionable, however after multiple deliberations between the referee and the TMO, the try was awarded – narrowing the deficit to 11 points.
Minutes later, Tambwe bagged his fourth try. Great work by Green created heaps of space for the wing who only had to dive over the line.
With 5 minutes left on the clock, the Lions put the final nail in the coffin, they ended the match in sublime fashion. The Lions had a five-metre line out, but could not manage to break the defence. Again the side had a chance to score courtesy of a five-metre scrum and indeed they took full advantage of it. From the reset scrum, Stean Pienaar made a break but was short, the ball was recycled and finally, Reynold crashed under the poles for the five points.
Reynold kept his cool as slot over the easy conversion for the dramatic win at Ellis Park.
Man of the match: For the Pumas Le Roux Roets was in impeccable form. Adie from his defence the lock made vital runs. For the Lions, Marnus Schoeman got his team front-foot ball with strong carries, while Tyrone Green was just as impressive with his lethal breaks however our nod goes to Lions wing Madosh Tambwe for his four tries.
For Golden Lions:
Tries: Tambwe 4, Green, Reynolds
Cons: Reynolds 4
Tries: Du Preez, Roets, Taljaard, Naude
Cons: Marais 4
Pens: Marais 3
Yellow card: Rhyno Herbst (Golden Lions, 24 – dangerous tackle).
Golden Lions: 15 Tyrone Green, 14 Madosh Tambwe, 13 Wandisile Simelane, 12 Wayne van der Bank, 11 Stean Pienaar, 10 Shaun Reynolds, 9 Ross Cronje (captain), 8 James Venter, 7 Vincent Tshituka, 6 Marnus Schoeman, 5 Reinhard Nothnagel, 4 Rhyno Herbst, 3 Johannes Jonker, 2 Jan-Henning Campher, 1 Dylan Smith.
Replacements: 16 Pieter Jansen, 17 Sti Sithole, 18 Jacobie Adriaanse, 19 Ruben Schoeman, 20 Len Massyn, 21 Dillon Smit, 22 Manuel Rass, 23 Jan-Louis la Grange.
Pumas: 15 Devon Williams, 14 Morne Joubert, 13 Neil Maritz, 12 Ryan Nell (captain), 11 Etienne Taljaard, 10 Jacobus Marais, 9 Reynier van Rooyen, 8 Willie Engelbrecht, 7 Hermanus Carel du Preez, 6 Jeandre Rudolph, 5 Stefan Willemse, 4 Le Roux Roets, 3 Marne Coetzee, 2 Marko Janse van Rensburg, 1 Andrew Beerwinkel.
Replacements: 16 Cornelius Els, 17 Wikus Groenewald, 18 Hilton Lobberts, 19 Phumzile Maqondwana, 20 Ashlon Davids, 21 Christopher Smith, 22 Henko Marais, 23 Morgan Naude.
Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge
Assistant referees: Jaco Pretorius, Eduan Nel
TMO: Lesego Legoete