Centre Ryan Crotty has scored a hat-trick as the visiting Crusaders ran in a total of six tries in handing the in-form Lions a 43-37 defeat in Super Rugby at Ellis Park.
It was the second major South African scalp in successive weeks for the New Zealand franchise, seven-times past winners of the southern hemisphere competition, after they had beaten the Sharks last weekend.
It took less than a minute for the Crusaders to make their mark on Friday as a quick turn over from a counter attack and a clever skip pass helped Crotty cross the line for a first try.
The Lions scored a try of their own within three minutes through Lionel Mapoe, but there was little time to settle as an intercept pass put Johnny McNicholl through and then Wyatt Crockett added a third try for the Crusaders with less than 20 minutes played.
Lions five-eighth Elton Jantjies, returning from injury, stole around the wing to score a clever try and then converted it himself from a tight angle to bring the score back to 19-17 just before the half-hour mark.
Both sides traded penalty kicks as the Crusaders went into halftime with a narrow 22-20 lead.
They were expected to struggle after the break in Johannesburg’s rarefied air, but All Black Crotty showed a clean pair of heels to the home defence with two more tries in the 48th and 51st minutes as the Crusaders went into a 36-20 lead.
Home hopes flickered briefly when replacement hooker Akker van der Merwe showed the Crusaders he had some pace of his own to go over to reduce the lead to nine points, but almost immediately the Crusaders re-established their hegemony as some crisp passing allowed Mitchell Drummond to make it 43-20.
Van der Merwe scored the 10th try with 10 minutes left and the Lions kept the pressure on in search of an unlikely come-from-behind win, but a combination of handling errors and stout defence denied them in the end.