The Golden Lions held off a determined second-half comeback from the Vodacom Blue Bulls before securing a 16-15 (halftime 10-7) win in their Vodacom Cup semifinal at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Saturday.
The defending champion Lions were under the cosh for much of the second-half, after opening up a 10-point lead in the first half but the Bulls inability to convert pressure into points proved to be their downfall.
The Lions opened the scoring in the ninth minute, courtesy of a penalty kick from flyhalf Willie du Plessis, and the visitors had the better of the first quarter of the match however, they held on to their lead only because Bulls pivot Tony Jantjies missed two penalty attempts.
The visitors finally opened up a reasonable lead on their opponents, in the 30th minute, when left wing Selom Gavor went over for a converted try.
Just as it looked as if the Bulls would go in to the halftime break trailing by 10 points the hosts finally opened their account, with two minutes left in the half, when inside centre Burger Odendaal took advantage of some lax Lions’ defending to score a converted try.
The Lions took just four minutes after the restart to add to their lead when Du Plessis slotted a penalty goal before Jantjies struck back six minutes later with a successful penalty of his own.
The home team then took almost complete control of proceedings in the second half but poor finishing proved to be their Achilles heel.
The Bulls went close to scoring at least two tries with Odendaal jinking his way to within metres of the tryline before the ball was passed in to touch while Jantjies lost the ball just short of the line after a quick tap penalty.
Jantjies then had the chance to level the scores, with 14 minutes left in the contest, but he pushed his penalty attempt wide.
Du Plessis finally extended the Lions’ lead to six points with a 72nd minute penalty before the Bulls made sure of a grandstand finish when replacement flank Roelof Smit was mauled over the tryline for an unconverted try.
The score left the Lions holding a tenuous one-point lead with just three minutes left in the game but they held on to reach the final and will travel to play the GWK Griquas on Friday, May 16 in Kimberley.
VODACOM BLUE BULLS – Tries: Burger Odendaal, Roelof Smit; Conversion: Tony Jantjies; Penalty: Jantjies. GOLDEN LIONS – Try: Selom Gavor; Conversion: Willie du Plessis; Penalties: Du Plessis (3).