Published on 15.09.2018 at 20h54 by AFP
A try 40 seconds into the first half set Western Province up for a surprisingly convincing 65-38 victory over the Golden Lions Saturday in the South African Currie Cup.
Discarded Springbok winger Dillyn Leyds was the early scorer and Province went on to claim a bonus-point victory at Ellis Park stadium in Johannesburg after leading 39-10 at half-time.
Although the Cape Town outfit lie third behind the Blue Bulls and the Lions with a maximum 15 points from three matches, the victory was hugely significant.
The defending champions have games in hand and are favoured to top the single-round league, thereby hosting a semi-final and, if successful, the final.
Home advantage is often a key factor in the knockout stages of a competition first staged in 1891, making it the oldest provincial rugby competition in the world.
Bulls have 17 points from five matches, the Lions 16 from four, and Province and 2017 runners-up the Sharks 15 each from three and all four should secure semi-finals places.
Griquas (eight points), Pumas (seven) and Free State Cheetahs (two), who must field a reserve side because of simultaneous PRO14 commitments, complete the standings.
Bulls beat the Pumas 39-29 and the Griquas came from 14 points behind to trounce the Cheetahs 52-24 in other matches with the Sharks having a bye.
After conceding 10 points within four minutes, the Lions reduced the gap to just three before the floodgates opened with Province scoring four more tries before the break.
The title-holders had a four-try bonus point wrapped up after just 28 minutes when Josh Stander scored after a move that originated with a basketball-style Scarra Ntubeni pass.
When the Lions threatened a second-half comeback, Province forward Juarno Augustus snuffed it out with a try on 56 minutes that gave his side a 44-17 advantage.
Winger SP Marais finished with 25 points from seven conversions, two penalties and a try, placing him second in the points scorers chart behind Shaun Reynolds of the Lions.
Reynolds had to settle for just 11 points from four conversions and a penalty and saw his advantage over Marais slashed to nine points.
Griquas achieved a first win this season by scoring 38 unanswered second-half points in northern Cape capital Kimberley with Floris Pelser claiming two tries.
Bulls needed a late score from Jano Venter to clinch victory over the Pumas, who began the match needing maximum points to have a realistic chance of making the semi-finals.