A first half hat-trick by wing Michael Killian helped the Xerox Lions to a 41-20 (half-time 29-6) victory over the Wildeklaver Griquas in a second round ABSA Currie Cup game at Coca-Cola Park on Saturday.
Dali Ndebele writes for SuperRugby that Killian followed up on his brace scored last week in the Lion’s 83-14 thrashing of the Valke in Brakpan with another impressive performance, looking for work while showing he has the knack to read the game and to be at the right place at the right time. He also proved that he is not lacking in pace as some had previously suggested.
The diminutive three-quarter back was signed by the Lions at the beginning of the season from Eastern Province where he played fullback and flyhalf, but he has grown in leaps and bounds in his new position on the wing, vindicating coach Eugene Eloff’s initially suspect decision to shift him into the number 11 jersey.
By the time Killian had scored his third and the Lions’ bonus point try just before the break, the game was pretty much done and dusted.
The Lions took a while to settle down properly though, although Killian scored his first try as early as the second minute, but for the first quarter of the game the territorial stats were heavily skewed 80% to 20 in favour of the Griquas.
But when they did find their rhythm they played with intensity, at the same time stringing together passages of play characterised by clinical recycling and hard running with slick handling by the backs.
Earl Rose had a hand in almost every try, breaking the opposition defensive line at will while injecting some zip into the backline play each time he touched the ball and the national selectors will definitely have put a few ticks next to his name.
Tight-head prop Ross Geldenhuys also got onto the score sheet before halftime, rumbling over after picking up and driving from a ruck ten metres out before shrugging off an attempted tackle by Griquas scrumhalf Sarel Pretorius.
The hosts were not as impressive in the second spell and in fact the Griquas won the half 14-12 in their quest to record a bonus point for loosing by seven or less.
Lions captain Cobus Grobbelaar finished off a team try, sliding over in the right corner at the beginning of the second stanza before the visitors mounted somewhat of a determined come-back.
Hooker Hans van Dyk and replacement lock Jacques Lombaard crashed over in similar fashion next to the uprights to narrow the gap to 34-20 and the Griquas were evidently looking to make it 34-27 but Lions centre Doppies la Grange put paid to those hopes when he strolled over after a scissors pass from Louis Strydom duped the Griquas’ defence with two minutes to go.
The win momentarily put the Lions in third position on the log with another ‘contenders’ clash to follow shortly between the Sharks and Cheetahs in Durban.
The Lions are desperate to shrug off Western Province, who are also gunning for fourth position and have had two good wins in their last two outings following the return of a dozen Boks from national duty to spice up the competition.
Five teams are still in with a chance and there is no doubt that this year’s Currie Cup will go down to the wire. The final play-off spot will in all likelihood be decided in the final round robin fixture where the Lions travel to Newlands to face Province.
Xerox Lions –
Tries: Michael Killian (3), Ross Geldenhuys, Cobus Grobbelaar, Doppies la Grange
Conversions: Earl Rose (3), Louis Strydom
Wildeklawer Griquas –
Tries: Hans van Dyk, Jacques Lombaard
Conversions: Conrad Barnard (2)
Penalties: Barnard (2)