WP win the battle but lose the war

Western Province were consigned to the 2008 Currie Cup scrapheap despite beating the Lions 14-6 at Newlands on Saturday evening.

WP needed to win, score at least four tries and attain a winning margin of at least 19 points to pip the Lions for the fourth and final play-off spot in this year’s competition.

However, they only managed the first target and, although they produced a rousing display, it did not atone for their failure.

Slick handling movements by WP made for a exciting start but the Lions’ defence survived the early tests. WP may have taken an early lead but they declined two opportunities in the second and 11th minutes to kick for the posts and opted instead for touch in pursuit of tries.

They failed to capitalise on this advantage as well as losing their line-out ball and clearly the 11th hour withdrawal of lock Adrian Fondse cost WP dearly. AJ Venter replaced Fondse in the WP second row.

Tempers became frayed in the 14th minute and play was held up for about three minutes.

Midway through the first half neither side had managed to open their account but that might have changed two minutes later had WP scrumhalf Ricky Januarie managed to hold on to a pass from a line-out move.

The high-paced start to the match seemed to have exhausted both teams’ appetite for attack and from the 25th minute they started trading heavily on upfield kicks in an effort to win territory. There were also a few up-and-unders from the Lions but WP only just managed to ward off danger.

As the match approached halftime there were several promising movements by WP inside the Lions half but poor decisions saw their efforts come to naught. That is, until the 40th minute, when WP flanker Luke Watson rounded off a splendid drive from a close-in lineout to score the first try of the match. Flyhalf Peter Grant, who was not having a particularly good game, converted to bring WP a deserved lead of 7-0.

WP mounted three early second-half sorties into the Lions 22-metre area, to little effect.

The Lions then drew blood when their flyhalf Earl Rose slotted a close-range penalty in the 62nd minute to bring the score to 7-3.

Two minutes later, the Newlands fans were out of their seats when WP skipper Jean de Villiers pulled off a trademark interception and ran the length of the field to score. Grant added the conversion.

In the remaining 18 minutes, WP certainly did enough to earn two more tries but they just couldn’t make a further breakthrough in the face of fierce resistance.

Rose scored the final points in the match with a 78th-minute penalty. - Sapa

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