Put it down to guts, a good motivational talk at halftime and the identification of their own mistakes and the opposition’s weaknesses by their coaching staff.
It is really uncanny the way the Golden Lions fought back for the third successive Currie Cup match to take the spoils after they were outplayed in the first half to win 24-22 against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Friday night.
It was a copycat display of their wins against the Pumas and Western Province when they also seemed down and out just to escape with late wins. This victory took them to the top of the Currie Cup log and they are now the only unbeaten side in the competition.
Down 19-0 to an impressive-looking Free State Cheetahs side, the Lions scored their first try well after the halftime hooter when Madosh Tambwe dotted down with Shaun Reynolds converting from wide out.
Totally out-scrummed, with three yellow cards through the course of the match also hampering them, the Lions of Ross Cronjé came back despite conceding a string of penalties throughout the match to ironically clinch matters with a penalty themselves.
The Lions, after a poor first half, suddenly tackled like demons, started getting quicker ball from the breakdowns and trusted one another with passing nearly as good as that of the Free State players. Marnus Schoeman was immense in winning and turning over possession at the breakdown, and talented Tyrone Green is now really breaking through and is indeed a young player to watch.
Reynolds summed up and played the game correctly at flyhalf, and thumbs up to the pack that, when it really counted, gave the Cheetahs some of their own medicine in the scrum right in front of the posts for Reynolds to nail the final penalty two minutes before time.
The Cheetahs, after two good tries from the early lineouts, didn’t aim a penalty at the posts before near the end, spurning heaven knows how many points. When that first penalty succeeded, they took back the lead at 22-21 after they had let through three Lions tries.
This penalty was the only points scored by the home side in the second half.
In the first half the Cheetahs totally dominated play and probably couldn’t be blamed for this approach as they ran and supported well and seemed to have the game wrapped up. A big win was on the cards.
But as the match wore on a change in decision-making was called for when the Lions drew closer and later led 21-19. Captain Tian Meyer slipped up in this regard.
Free State Cheetahs (19) 22: Tries: Joseph Dweba, Walt Steenkamp, Marnus van der Merwe. Conversions: Tian Schoeman, Bernhard Janse van Rensburg. Penalty: Louis Fouché.
Golden Lions (7) 24: Tries: Madosh Tambwe, Tyrone Green, Wandisile Simelane. Conversions: Shaun Reynolds (3). Penalty: Reynolds.