Quick thinking by replacement halfback Faf de Klerk handed the Lions a crucial 29-22 victory over the Stormers in a brutal South African Super Rugby derby at Ellis Park on Saturday.
De Klerk took a quick tap penalty to score what provided a decisive try as the Lions opened up a five-point lead over the Sharks in their Africa Conference 2.
The Stormers are a now just a single point ahead of the Bulls at the top of the other African pool.
The Lions also scored a try through wing Ruan Combrinck, while five-eighth Elton Jantjies booted four penalties, two conversions and a late drop-goal.
The Stormers’ only try came from loose-forward Siya Kolisi as flyhalf Jean-Luc du Plessis kicked five penalties and a conversion.
The Lions dominated possession and territory in the opening period, but each time the Stormers made a foray into their host’s half they were rewarded with a penalty.
It was tit-for-tat in the first half-hour as Du Plessis edged the visitors in front from the kicking tee on three occasions, only for Jantjies to hit back with a penalty to level the score.
Du Plessis added a further three points before the Lions grabbed the initiative with an excellently worked try as they sucked the Stormers defenders in before spreading the ball wide for Combrinck to score in the corner and give the home side a 16-12 advantage at halftime.
The Stormers had to weather more Lions pressure in the early minutes of the second period but again bagged a penalty with their first break into the home side’s half.
The Lions created some daylight on the scoreboard when they broke 70-metres up the field and after earning a penalty in front of the posts, De Klerk caught the Stormers defence on the back foot as he took it quickly and managed to dot down for a try under pressure from two defenders.
That gap was closed again when Kolisi side-stepped his way to finish a brilliant move from the visitors and bring them within one point again with little more than 15 minutes remaining.
Jantjies made the game safe for the home side with his fourth penalty and a drop-goal to complete an excellent outing for the Springbok hopeful.