The Lions continued with their fine start to the season when they claimed a deserved 36-32 victory over the Chiefs in Hamilton on Saturday.
The win was an historical one for the men from Johnnesburg as it was their first ever triumph over the Chiefs in Hamilton.
As the scorline suggests, this was an entertaining affair with the the two sides scoring four tries apiece but, in the end, it was the Chiefs’ poor discipline which cost them the match as they conceded a plethora of soft penalties.
Although the entire Lions team deserve credit for this result, their halfbacks, Faf de Klerk and Elton Jantjies deserve special praise, for their game management which set up victory.
The duo controlled proceedings for large periods with impressive decision-making and Jantjies finished with a 16-point haul via four penalties and two conversions.
Jantjies and Damian McKenzie traded early penalties but the Chiefs scored the first try in the 20th minute – Tom Sanders rounding off a flowing move in which Seta Tamanivalu laid the groundwork with a barnstorming run.
The Lions thought they had their first try on the half-hour mark but Damian McKenzie did well to hold up Lionel Mapoe as he went over the tryline after Faf de Klerk did brilliantly to draw in two defenders before offloading Mapoe deep inside the Chiefs’ 22,
The visitors didn’t have to wait long for that five-pointer, however, as two minutes later Malcolm Marx barged over from close quarters after running onto a pass from Harold Vorster.
The Chiefs continued to concede penalties and shortly after that try Jantjies slotted two further penalties – the second one a superb effort from 55 metres out – which meant the visitors led 19-8 deep in to the second half.
The Chiefs managed to reduce that deficit on the stroke of half-time, however, when McKenzie added a three-pointer from the kicking tee but with the visitors had their tails up as they went in to the break 19-11 up.
Despite that penalty, things soon got better for the Lions as shortly after the restart the Chiefs’ replacement prop Mitchell Graham was yellow carded for a professional foul on defence.
The visitors took advantage of their numerical advantage and Jantjies did well to put Courtnall Skosan into space and he rounded James Lowe before crossing in the left-hand corner.
The home side didn’t surrender, however, and shortly afterwards Charlie Ngatai made a telling break before offloading to McKenzie who dived over for their second try and five minutes later they took the lead when Lowe dotted down after Aaron Cruden set him up with a perfectly-timed inside pass just outside the Lions’ 22.
The Lions soon regained the lead via a try from their skipper Warren Whiteley who burrowed his way over the whitewash after receiving a pass from De Klerk and they extended that lead in the 66th minute when Ruan Combrinck cut inside a couple of defenders inside the Chiefs 22 before crossing for their fourth try.
And although the Chiefs struck back when Brad Weber caught the defence napping before diving over for their fourth try in the 71st minute, it was too little too late as the visitors kept several Chiefs attacks out with a heroic defensive effort to secure a famous victory.
Tries: Sanders, McKenzie. Lowe, Weber
Cons: McKenzie 3
Pens: McKenzie 2
Yellow Card: Graham
Tries: Marx, Skosan, Combrinck, Whiteley
Cons: Jantjies 2
Pens: Jantjies 4
Chiefs: 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Latu Vaeno, 13 Seta Tamanivalu, 12 Charlie Ngatai, 11 James Lowe, 10 Aaron Cruden (c), 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Maama Vaipulu, 7 Sam Cane (c), 6 Tom Sanders, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Michael Allardice, 3 Hiroshi Yamashita, 2 Rhys Marshall, 1 Pauliasi Manu
Replacements: 16 Nathan Harris, 17 Mitchell Graham, 18 Siate Tokolahi, 19 Taleni Seu, 20 Michael Leitch, 21 Brad Weber, 22 Anton Lienert-Brown, 23 Glen Fisiiahi
Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Courtnal Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley (c), 7 Warwick Tecklenburg, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Julian Redelinghuys, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Dylan Smith.
Replacements: 16 Akker van der Merwe, 17 Corné Fourie, 18 Ruan Dreyer, 19 Robert Kruger, 20 Fabian Booysen, 21 Jaco van der Walt, 22 Howard Mnisi, 23 Rohan Janse van Rensburg
Referee: Andrew Lees
Assistant Referees: Nick Briant, Angus Mabey
TMO: Aaron Paterson