Scintillating Victory

The Cell C Sharks were forced to work hard against a competitive ADT Security Lions team before showing their class for a 29-21 bonus point Currie Cup victory at Hollywoodbets Kings Park on Saturday evening.

Although a home semi-final had been secured before kick-off even, the fight for top spot had intensified with Free State edging the Pumas in the earlier game of the day. The five log points ensured that the Cell C Sharks remain in top spot with their final pool game against DHL Western Province still to be played.

But onto this tense, action-packed game. There are many adjectives to describe this game: heroic, tough, brutal, opportunistic. Those and more, but certainly no shortage of drama in a game where the ebb and flow of momentum swung from one side to the other throughout, before the Cell C Sharks took control in the second half and made sure of their seventh straight victory in the tournament.

The Lions opened the scoring 10 minutes into a game that was all about grinding away at the opposition, a forward effort off an attacking lineout, with the successful conversion giving the visitors a 7-nil lead.

The Lions delivered a near carbon-copy effort to score their second try, five minutes later after some strong competing to initially turn over possession and then send a penalty to the line, secure the lineout drive and then close out their dream start with the second conversion.

The Cell C Sharks struck gold 28 minutes into the absolute dog fight of a match, the forwards hammering away at the line before hooker Fez Mbatha powered his way over, Lionel Cronje converting to reduce the margin back to seven points.

Aphelele Fassi, having shown great interest in finding work throughout, made his presence felt as the game headed towards half-time, reading a long pass from the Lions in the midfield perfectly, snatching the intercept and racing to the tryline, with Cronje levelling the scores.

An exciting passage of play – the best of the half from either side – ensured as the Cell C Sharks came close to taking the lead, but the move failed to yield dividends.  But it was a sign that the home team were on the up after suffering some early scares.

Ntuthuko Mchunu replaced Kwezi Mona in the second half and immediately made his formidable presence felt, winning a scrum penalty and then closing off a close-quarter attack to score his team’s third try inside the opening five minutes. Cronje’s boot was on the mark for the extra two points and a 21-14 lead.

The joy was short-lived as former Sharks’ scrumhalf Sanele Nohamba found space out wide to score his team’s third try and converting to level matters once again.

Both sides hammered away at one another, with the Lions spending long periods of phase play in the Cell C Sharks’ 22 but unable to break the back of some incredibly brave and resolute defence.   

But the wall eventually broke as both sides delivered heroics, for the Cell C Sharks on attack and the Lions on defence of their tryline, but eventually there was a crack and then a devastating score, Mchunu scoring his second as he bulldozed his way over for the bonus point try and a 26-21 lead with just over five minutes remaining.

With confidence and momentum on their side, the Cell C Sharks dominated the final minutes of the game, Kerron van Vuuren outstanding as a poacher and then the rest of his team-mates putting on a show before the Lions gave away an unnecessary penalty that Nevaldo Fleurs converted for an eight point lead.