Lions flanks Jaco Kriel and Derick Minnie crossed for tries in the first 15 minutes to set up a hard-earned 19-12 victory for the visitors, in their Super Rugby warm-up match, against the Southern Kings at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Saturday.
In a match which was filled with too many errors to satisfy either side, the Kings came back from the early deficit, but they were left to rue a number of missed chances, with the Lions forwards doing excellent work in disrupting the home side’s lineouts.
The match entered a critical phase 13 minutes into the second half when the Kings earned a penalty try, after the Lions infringed at a five-metre lineout.
The resultant seven points and a yellow card for Minnie, brought the home team right back into the match at 14-12.
The Lions, however, showed great resolve during this period to not only hold the Kings at bay, but then to force a third try when they shoved through the defence from a lineout close to the line for substitute Robbie Coetzee to dot down.
This gave the Lions a seven-point cushion and they were good enough to hold on for the victory, spending a lot of time in the Kings’ half in the latter stages of the match.
Coach Johan Ackermann, however, will know that a lot of hard work lies ahead before they can tackle their Super Rugby opponents with any confidence.
The Lions looked good early on and ran hard at the Kings backline as they camped in their half in the opening phases. This led to Kriel receiving a pass after a gap had been forced to cross untouched in the ninth minute.
Six minutes later Minnie powered his way through after a knock-on by scrumhalf Jaco Grobler gave the Lions an attacking scrum.
From the kickoff, the Lions attempted to run the ball in their 22-metre area, and they conceded possession, as Kings wing Sergeal Petersen took the final pass to race down the right touchline. It made the score 14-5 at the break.
Two minutes after halftime Petersen limped off the field, and both coaches introduced changes which led to some disjointed play at times.
The Kings sniffed a chance when they were awarded the penalty try, but the Lions were able to control much of the play from then on, quickly snuffing out any attacking moves by the home side.
Lions (19): Tries: Jaco Kriel, Derick Minnie, Robbie Coetzee. Conversions: Marnitz Boshoff (2).
Kings (12): Tries: Sergeal Petersen, penalty try. Conversions: George Whitehead (1).