The Cell C Sharks re-enacted a Greek tragedy, playing the main role of the Phoenix rising from the ashes as they came back from an invidious position at half-time to win their Currie Cup clash against the Lions 47-31.
Three games in eight days looked to have taken its toll for the Cell C Sharks at half-time when they looked dead and buried against the Lions at Emirates Airline Park on Saturday.
Not only did the Cell C Sharks come out on top against the Lions, but they rose to the top of the log following the full house of points gained in Saturday evening’s match.
The Lions pushed hard in the early stages of the game and it was on defence that the Cell C Sharks lost the hard-working Thomas du Toit who hyper-extended his foot and had to leave the field which was an early disappointment.
However, the Lions, doing all the attacking, couldn’t penetrate the defence and they too suffered the misfortune of losing a player – their scrumhalf – also to an ankle injury.
But on the 10 minute mark, they finally came good with a grubber through the defence and the re-gather to score the opening try of the match.
The second try came five minutes later, against the Lions kicking the ball ahead and outstripping the defence, launching off turnover ball. Again the conversion was good and the home side led 14-0.
Another five minutes later and the Lions struck again as they exploited a gap in the defence out wide to score their third try. They were turning possession into points which was reflected on the one-sided nature of the scoreboard, 19-nil in the hosts’ favour.
It took 10 minutes for the next score, and it was the Lions again, the bonus point try coming on the half hour mark to take a commanding 24-nil lead.
The Cell C Sharks just couldn’t get their rhythm going and it was showing on the scoreboard as the Lions had the rub of every green, every bounce of the ball.
The Cell C Sharks’ luck finally changed, but it took into the 43rd minute – extra time of the first half – when they kicked a penalty to touch and Benhard Janse van Rensburg broke through a gap following the lineout and he fed Tera Mtembu who raced over under the posts. Garth April’s conversion told the tale of misfortune in that half as the ball struck the upright.
It would require a big step up in accuracy in the second half and lots of catching up to haul in the Lions’ 24-5 half-time lead.
But there was to be no change in fortunes following the break as the Lions were quickly onto the scoreboard with a fifth try, scored within the opening five minutes of the second half. Again, there was a five minute break between tries, but this time in the Cell C Sharks’ favour as Keegan Daniel made a good break and the outstanding competitor Jacques Vermeulen scored.
In the process, Lions hooker Robbie Coetzee kicked Vermeulen in the face and was sent from the field for the remainder of the game, the Lions down to 14 men for half an hour. It would prove to be the Lions’ downfall.
Another five minutes and another try came our way, this time a penalty try as the Lions scrum, down to seven men, had no counter to the pressure placed on them, and the Cell C Sharks had fought back to 31-19.
Suddenly there was a spring in the Cell C Sharks’ step and dominance at scrum time. They made it count, again, with another strong scrum that led to a try for debutant Louis Schreuder, the bonus point, and crucially, just five points in it. The pendulum had swung.
The Cell C Sharks equalised with just over 10 minutes of the game remaining when the forwards pounded away at the tryline, John-Hubert Meyer bashing his way over, and then April put his team in the lead for the first time in the game with the conversion in quite the most remarkable fightback.
The fun and games continued as the Cell C Sharks countered from turn-over ball in their 22 and taking the ball upfield, Vermeulen crashed over. Crucially, he had scored under the posts and April converted for a nine point lead with five minutes remaining.
It wasn’t over as Daniel dived over, taking the bobbling ball over to put the game firmly out of doubt in quite the most incredible fight-back.
Golden Lions – Tries: Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Jacques Nel, Anthony Volmink, Marco Janse van Vuren, Fabian Booysen. Conversions: Jaco van der Walt (3).
Sharks – Tries: Tera Mtembu, Jacques Vermeulen (2), penalty try, Louis Schreuder, John-Hubert Meyer, Keegan Daniel. Conversions: Garth April (5).