Unbeaten Pumas show resolve to snuff out Lions comeback in Nelspruit thriller

In the aftermath of last Sunday’s momentous thrashing of the Bulls, Jimmy Stonehouse had warned his Pumas charges already that dizzying heights can easily be replaced by lows the next week.

He wasn’t quite proven correct but his troops had to pull out a few stops to keep their unbeaten start to this year’s Currie Cup campaign intact following a thrilling 34-27 victory over the Lions in Nelspruit on Friday evening.

All things considered, the Pumas deserved the result because, on balance, they still had more ammunition and accuracy than the visitors, who’ll rue a poor first half for hampering what could’ve been an impressive comeback.

The hosts dominated the first 40, keeping the Lions caged in their own half and rattling their defensive line with the speed of their carries.

Indeed, the opening score was vintage Pumas attacking play, centre Ali Mgijima racing into contact before brilliantly off-loading to wing Jade Stighling, who fed impressive midfielder Diego Appollis to a run-in untouched.

They entrenched their advantage when Appollis, a schoolboy prodigy who didn’t quite make the grade at Jake White’s Bulls, feasted on a spilled ball to find fullback Devon Williams.

In-between, the Pumas were aggressive in defence, continually rushing Lions ball-carriers behind the advantage line and sucking any momentum out of their game.

It didn’t help that the men from Doornfontein’s kicking game was startlingly impotent and inaccurate.

Yet, to their credit, the Lions kept things tighter after the turnaround and started to make inroads, using their rolling maul to good effect.

Winger Boldwin Hansen was on hand to round off after a sustained period of pressure and flanker Jarod Cairns dotted down from another maul after being denied a score prevously for obstruction.

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Pivot Vaughen Isaacs’ brilliant run from a nifty Nico Steyn, his halfback partner, pass put them right back in the frame and Hansen’s intercept for his brace put flutters of anxiety into the Pumas ranks.

Or at least that was the theory.

If there’s anything the Pumas are becoming better at it’s game management when the pressure is really on.

Wily Corne Fourie’s peel from a breakdown was the first example of that before Appollis sealed the deal with a magnificent stepping finish after the Lions, who had the game tied at 27-all, dropped the ball because of Isaacs’ over-eagerness.

Point scorers:

Pumas – 34 (17)

Tries: Diego Appollis (2), Devon Williams, Andre Fouche, Corne Fourie

Conversions: Brandon Thomson (3)

Penalty: Thomson

Lions – 27 (3)

Tries: Boldwin Hansen (2), Jarod Cairns, Vaughen Isaacs

Conversions: Vaughen Isaacs (2)

Penalty: Isaacs

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