The Lions were denied a possible Currie Cup win over the Free State Cheetahs when referee Christie du Preez blew the final whistle with the two packs ready to scrum down for the final scrum.
The Cheetahs won the one-try match in Bloemfontein 22-18.
The Lions – who were the better team after the break in a match that seldom really came alight – now have a single log point to show after two outings.
The pressure on coach Eugene Eloff is sure to mount after another defeat that followed their Super 14 pattern where mistakes yet again cost them dearly. The Lions’ old malaise was evident on a few occasions in the first 15 minutes that even at that stage seemed destined to be the “Rossouw Show” as former Springbok flyhalf Chris Rossouw scored the Cheetahs’ first 10 points via a try, conversion and penalty for them to lead 10-6.
He added another four penalties to account for all the winners points and was also the outstanding player on the field.
The missed tackle by Dusty Noble on Rossouw to let him in for an early try was probably the cruellest blow to the Lions in a relatively poor first half.
The Lions again dropped balls in the backline – something they could hardly afford with first-half possession going the home side’s way – and kicked away possession on a number of occasions just as moves started looking promising. Lost lineouts and turnovers at ruck time also cost them dearly.
A prime example of wasted ball was when good work by Earl Rose nearly led to a try only for Jano Vermaak to kick the ball dead when in the opposing 22. The Lions, with their pack showing more urgency and a well-organised defence, slowly came back into the game in the second quarter, but that man Rossouw put over a long range effort and after 27 minutes it was 13-9 to the Free State just for Rose to pull back three points from the restart.
With referee Christie du Preez forced to penalise both sides regularly, the first half brought very little continuity or excitement other than the near-try by Jongi Nokwe 34 minutes into the game after their third successive lineout loss. However, the final pass from Bevin Fortuin was ruled forward by the TMO.
When Rose had a ball dislodged during a tackle for yet another silly off-side transgression by a Lions forward Rossouw slotted another sitter to deservedly put his side clear by four points at the break (16-12).
The Lions had slowly gained the upper hand in the scrums, and this was emphasised in the second half when Heinke van der Merwe showed his class against Kobus Calldo in forcing a scrum turnover.
A few bustling runs by big Lions No 8 Willem Alberts, great work on the ground by his captain Cobus Grobbelaar and excellent general play by lock Gerhard Mostert saw the Lions dominate in the third quarter. They were now on top and after 54 minutes Rose’s fifth penalty deservedly brought his side to within a point – but the Cheetahs’ four-point lead was re-established a minute later by Rossouw before Rose made it six from six and the scoreline 19-18 with 10 minutes to go.
Rossouw slotted from under the posts with four minutes to go after a very tough call for a high tackle by referee Du Preez, and the Lions’ final surge was too late.
Free State Cheetahs: Tries: Chris Rossouw. Conversions: Rossouw. Penalties: Rossouw (5).
Lions: Penalties: Earl Rose (6)Tweet