A late Shaun Reynolds penalty helped the Lions edge the Waratahs 29-28 at Ellis Park on Saturday.
Both sides scored four tries in what was a see-saw encounter in Johannesburg.
The Waratahs made a blistering start to the game and after some good linking play and a strong run my Cameron Clarke, the ball found its way to scrumhalf Nick Phipps to run in for the first try of the game in the fourth minute. Bernard Foley was successful with the conversion.
The Lions hit back in the 11th minute for their first points of the game when flyhalf Elton Jantjies fed a neat inside pass to Aphiwe Dyantyi who dived over the tryline after sustained pressure in the visitors’ 22.
Jantjies added the extra two points with the conversion to level the scores.
However, moments after the restart the Waratahs found themselves back in front after ball was spread wide to Michael Hooper who found himself in acres of space to run in for his team’s second try, which Foley converted.
The Lions ensured that they stayed in touch in the 18th minute when lock Stephan Lewies crashed over from close range after the Waratahs gave away a number of penalties inside their own 22. Jantjies was on hand to convert the try.
However, the home side’s defence was again badly exposed in the 27th minute when Waratahs lock Rob Simmons was put through a gap to sprint in for his team’s third try, which Foley converted.
The see-saw nature of the match continued in the 33rd minute when Harold Vorster split the Waratahs defence in two before his neat grubber kick left the ball bouncing perfectly for Kwagga Smith to pick the ball up and dot it down for the Lions’ third try.
Jantjies missed the conversion which ensured that Waratahs headed into the half-time break leading 21-19.
The Lions made the perfect start to the second half when some good interplay between backs and forwards saw wing Courtnall Skosan finish off an excellent score to give the Lions the lead for the first time in the game in the 44th minute. Jantjies added another two points with the conversion.
Replays suggested that there was a clear forward pass in the build-up to that try, but the officials did not pick it up.
The home side had chances to extend their lead a few minutes later, but they were wasteful in the opposition’s 22.
Instead, it was the Waratahs who took the lead in the 58th minute after lock Tom Staniforth crashed over for his team’s fourth try which Foley converted to make it a two-point ball game at 26-28.
The final quarter was a bit of an arm-wrestle and the Lions regained the lead in the 68th minute with a Shaun Reynolds penalty.
That was the last change in the score with the Lions hanging on for the win.
Man of the match: Malcolm Marx had another powerful display with ball in hand and he was a handful at the breakdowns as well. He deserves the award.
Tries: Dyantyi, Lewies, K Smith, Skosan
Cons: Jantjies 3
Tries: Phipps, Hooper, Simmons, Staniforth
Cons: Foley 4