Evan Roos led a strong DHL Western Province pack of forwards to earn a vital bonus-point 35-13 (halftime 16-13) Carling Currie Cup victory over the Sigma Lions at the final home game at DHL Newlands in Cape Town on Wednesday evening.
The strong No. 8 had a storming match, breaking over the gain line time and again, defending with everything he had and bagging two tries for a man of the match performance while scrumhalf Godlen Masimla and replacement hooker Andre-Hugo Venter also crossed the whitewash to bag the bonus-point to lift WP into third on the Currie Cup log with two away games remaining.
Flyhalf Tim Swiel landed three, first-half penalties along with three conversions while making some good line breaks in the second stanza on wet outfield. The Lions could only trouble the scorers in the first period with fullback EW Viljoen driving over the line with flyhalf Jordan Hendrikse converting and adding two penalties.
The Lions and Province started the night occupying the bottom two positions on the log, with WP having a game in hand over the rest of the pack, but the bonus-point win lifted them to third on 30 points, two points ahead of the New Nation Pumas and Tafel Lager Griquas while the Lions remain in slim contention on 24 points, four points behind the Pumas and Griquas with just one game left in the tank.
The sides traded early penalties with conditions not conducive to a running game with Swiel giving the home side the lead after nine minutes and Hendrikse levelling matters just four minutes later. But stalwart veteran Deon Fourie aided in breaking the deadlock midway through the first half, picking up from a ruck and bursting down the middle of the park.
With flanker Johan du Toit and Masimla in support, Province were in for the night’s opening try with Swiel adding the extra two points. But the visitors were not to be outdone and from the kick-off, put WP under pressure as the home side knocked on. The Lions drove to the line before moving the ball left where Viljoen drew two defenders and slid over the line to bring the scores level as Hendrikse converted.
Swiel added two more penalties to Hendrikse’s one as the sides headed into the changerooms with the hosts up by three points.
As has been all season for the home side, coach John Dobson would have been concerned that his side had played their better half of rugby in the first stanza with his side just three points to the good. But Province turned in a near-perfect match with Roos leading from the front.
Province were on the front foot from the kick-off with the forwards driving towards the line but the Lions defence held firm, but Roos used his power to drive three of the Lions defenders over the line for his first try of the evening to extend the home side’s lead to eight points.
The second half resembled a war of attrition between the two packs of forwards but as the half drew on, Western Province started to gain the ascendancy, winning scrum penalties almost at win while also stealing some of their opponents lineout ball.
The WP maul, which has been an attacking weapon throughout the season, failed to work during the opening 40 minutes but the second period was a different story. WP scored their third try of the night from a strong maul close to the Lions tryline but the Lions pack halted the drive short of the line. However, the ever-alert Roos picked up at the base of the collapsed maul and dived over the line.
Nerves started to appear in the Western Province coaching box as prop Neethling Fouche was sin-binned for a no-arms tackle with eight minutes left on the clock, leaving the home side to play out the remainder of the game with just 14 men and a 17-point cushion on the board.
However, the home side stood tall and strong, repelling anything the Lions could throw at them and with the penalty count favouring the home side, Swiel drove the visitors back into their own 22m area. With time up on the stadium clock, the Province forwards gave one last, hard push towards the line in search of the all-important bonus-point try and it was Venter who controlled well at the back of another well-orchestrated maul to give the hosts their fourth try of the night.
DHL Western Province – Tries: Evan Roos (2), Godlen Masimla, Andre-Hugo Venter; Conversions: Tim Swiel (3); Penalties: Swiel (3).
Sigma Lions – Try: EW Viljoen; Conversion: Jordan Hendrikse; Penalties: Hendrikse (2).