The discipline and tackling technique of the NSW Waratahs were called into question for a second straight week as they suffered a 27-22 Super Rugby loss to the Lions in Johannesburg.
The bonus-point defeat lifted the defending Super Rugby champions level on points with the Brumbies at the top of the Australian conference with two rounds remaining.
NSW were twice reduced to 14 men after winger Rob Horne was sin-binned for a tip tackle in the first half and forward Jacques Potgieter suffered the same fate in the second for tackling late and without using his arms.
The sanctions came just a few days after hooker Tolu Latu and lock Will Skelton were suspended for their involvement in a lifting tackle against the Crusaders, when the Tahs also made some shoulder-charge type tackles.
Both the Waratahs and Lions scored three tries in an entertaining game in which both sides looked to run the ball.
NSW looked gone at 27-10 down with just under half an hour to go, but 12 unanswered points in seven minutes got them within five, with just over a quarter of the game remaining.
Centre Kurtley Beale, playing his 100th game for the Tahs, was the architect of their revival, setting up tries to centre Adam Ashley-Cooper and Horne.
Lions five-eighth Elton Jantjes kept the visitors in the game with a couple of missed penalties but the Tahs lacked the composure and polish to score another try.
Lions winger Ruan Combrinck scored two well-executed, first-half tries with the Tahs missing twice as many tackles as the home team before the break.
Dangerous Combrinck set up his team’s third try for centre Harold Vorster in the second half with a break and flick pass.
The Waratahs hit the lead for the only time midway through the first half after flanker Stephen Hoiles burrowed over from close range following several phases and five-eighth Bernard Foley converted for a 10-7 advantage.
It lasted only ten minutes as Jantjes kicked the penalty awarded after Horne’s indiscretion and he converted Combrinck’s second try for a 17-10 halftime lead for the home team.