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The Lions returned to winning ways when they secured a deserved 24-9 triumph over the Sharks in Durban on Saturday.
Elton Jantjies led the way with a 14-point haul for the visitors, via a conversion and four penalties, and the men from Johannesburg outscored the Sharks two tries to none with Andries Ferreira and Lionel Mapoe crossing the whitewash.
The result is a significant one as it means the Lions move above the Sharks into first spot on the Africa Conference Two table, and provisionally into second spot – behind the Stormers – in the South African Group with the Bulls still to play later on Saturday. The Lions now have 18 points from six matches while the Sharks are two points adrift after the same number of matches.
The Sharks battled for large periods and are lucky that they didn’t lose by a bigger margin. Their attack lacked accuracy and they conceded several penalties, especially during the first half.
The home side were fastest out of the blocks and were on the attack from the kick-off. They were soon camped inside the Lions’ 22 and it took a brilliant tackle from Courtnall Skosan to prevent Willie le Roux from scoring the opening try as early as the third minute.
Five minutes later the Lions thought they had opened the scoring when Jaco Kriel went over the whitewash, after running onto an inside pass from Ruan Combrinck, but, after checking with the Television Match Official, referee Angus Gardner ruled that a pass from Elton Jantjies to Combrinck in the build-up had gone forward.
The Lions didn’t let that setback deter them, however, and shortly afterwards Andries Ferreira opened the scoring when he barged over from close quarters under the posts.
The Lions continued to dominate and Jantjies made it 13-0 with another three-pointer from the kicking tee, before the Sharks opened their account via a Joe Pietersen penalty on the half-hour mark.
The Lions went further ahead in the 36th minute when Lionel Mapoe showed great determination and a fine appreciation of the game’s laws when, after wriggling free from an attempted tackle from Andre Esterhuizen, he got up and dived over for his side’s second try.
The Sharks were then awarded a penalty on the stroke of half-time which Pietersen duly converted which meant the Lions led 18-6 at the interval.
The second half was a cagey affair with the Sharks trying their best to narrow the gap but their attacking efforts were thwarted by a solid defensive effort from the Lions.
Pietersen and Jantjies traded penalties shortly after the restart which meant the Lions led 21-9 by the 45th minute.
The next 15 minutes offered little excitement with another Jantjies penalty in the 67th minute the only other points scored during the rest of the match.
The Lions needed another try to secure their bonus point but although they had a couple of chances to do so, poor finishing and unforced errors meant they fell short of achieving that goal.