Lions bt Chiefs for 1st Hamilton rugby win

The Lions have made light of any travel fatigue they might have felt by downing the Chiefs 36-32 in a seesawing Super Rugby clash.

They survived a late charge by the Chiefs on Saturday, holding out forward drives from two lineouts in the last two minutes to secure their maiden victory in Hamilton on their ninth attempt.

The result also made it two wins from two to start the season for the South Africans, who had arrived in New Zealand via Tokyo, where they beat newcomers the Sunwolves in round one.

They withstood a big start from the Chiefs, who couldn’t turn early dominance of possession into points.

Young Chiefs fullback Damian McKenzie was again impressive with his dangerous running and he also didn’t shirk his defensive responsibilities.

McKenzie instigated a breakout that also showed off the power of the Chiefs’ midfield of Seta Tamanivalu and Charlie Ngatai.

After the sides traded penalties, it was another Tamanivalu run that set up flanker Tom Sanders for the game’s first try.

But the Lions stayed in touch thanks to a big scrum, dominance of the breakdown and their own willingness to chance their arm.

It was from a powerful set piece that they grabbed their opening try through hooker Malcolm Marx.

The Chiefs didn’t help their cause with their indiscipline and opposition five-eighth Elton Jantjies made them pay, landing all four of his first-half penalties.

Down 19-11, the Chiefs suffered a double blow early in the second spell, with replacement prop Mitchell Graham sinbinned two minutes after coming on for an offside tackle and then lock Brodie Retallick going off injured.

Up a man, the Lions scored with a fine finish from winger Courtnal Skosan.

That sparked a two-try comeback from the Chiefs.

From a turnover, Ngatai set up McKenzie for a run to the corner.

Then restored to 15 men, the Chiefs worked a lineout move and five-eighth Aaron Cruden’s inside ball sent winger James Lowe over for a converted try that put them back in front.

The lead lasted three minutes before the Lions produced two inside passes of their own and skipper Warren Whiteley crashed over.

Winger Ruan Combrinck scored their fourth try, starting the move by pulling in a Cruden 22-dropout and being on hand to finish the attack.

The Chiefs, looking to back up their win over the Crusaders last weekend, gave themselves hope when replacement halfback Brad Weber dummied over from a goalline maul and McKenzie’s conversion made it a four-point game with 10 minutes to go.

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