The Fidelity ADT Lions United Rugby Championship (URC) reinforcements proved the difference as they put in a superb effort to help their side claim a 33-26 win over the Toyota Cheetahs in their Currie Cup clash at the Toyota Stadium in Bloemfontein on Saturday afternoon.
After a fast start gave the Lions a 20-0 lead after 34 minutes, the visitors managed to weather mid match revival from the Cheetahs, before taking a 33-14 lead with 10 minutes remaining which was enough to see them over the line as the home side again fought back in the closing moments.
At the start of the match massive early pressure from the Lions on the Cheetahs was rewarded when they used a training ground move off a lineout in the hosts 22m, with the recycled ball popped to outside centre Rynhardt Jonker to crash over to score.
Flyhalf Sanele Nohamba nailed the conversion and added a penalty in the 11th minute to put the Lions 10-0 up.
It took until the 30th minute for the next points, as Nohamba added another penalty, but four minutes later on attack on the Cheetahs 22m, a perfect chip over the defence from scrumhalf Morne van den Berg allowed wing Edwill van der Merwe to pick up and dive over for the converted score and a 20-0 lead.
On the stroke of halftime the Cheetahs finally struck back, as they attacked deep into the Lions 22m, where eighthman George Cronje picked up and powered over to score, with scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar’s extras making it 20-7 at the break.
The Cheetahs came out all guns blazing in the second half with Cronje again prevalent, making the initial break into the Lions half and then finishing it off with a pick and go close to the line, as Pienaar’s conversion brought them into the contest at 20-14 after 43 minutes.
The home side then had a number of chances deep in the Lions 22m over the next seven minutes, but constant mistakes allowed the visitors to hold out, giving Nohamba a chance to add to their lead with a 50th minute penalty.
The Lions moved further ahead with their third try 10 minutes later as they attacked from turnover ball, getting near the Cheetahs 22m where the ball found its way to flank JC Pretorius to put on the gas, step inside a defender and cruise over for a converted score that put them 30-14 ahead.
Nohamba’s fourth penalty in the 70th minute put the Lions 19 points ahead and well on course for a superb win.
A strong finish to the match from the Cheetahs then ensured that they would at least walk away with two losing bonus points.
First flank Sibabalo Qoma showed great strength to power over, followed by replacement hooker Marnus van der Merwe dotting down at the back of a maul for their fourth try, with replacement back George Lourens adding a conversion to bring them within seven points.
Cheetahs: Tries - George Cronje (2), Sibabalo Qoma, Marnus van der Merwe; Conversions - Ruan Pienaar (2), Geroge Lourens
Lions: Tries - Rynhardt Jonker, Edwill van der Merwe, JC Pretorius; Conversions - Sanele Nohamba (3); Penalties - Nohamba (4)