The Crusaders claimed their fourth win of the Super Rugby season on Sunday as they edged the Lions 14-8 at Ellis Park in Johannesburg.
Tries from Sam Whitelock and Jack Goodhue saw them to the points while Madosh Tambwe went over for the Lions, who suffer a third defeat.
Despite the loss the Lions stay atop the South African Conference, with a seven point lead, while the Crusaders go level with the Hurricanes.
In a low-scoring opening half that saw the Crusaders go in pointless, just a solitary try was scored by the Lions through left wing Tambwe.
The Lions were looking to bounce back to winning ways after a poor run that has seen them lose to the Blues and Jaguares in their past three games.
They started in decent form on Sunday though as two evenly matched sides went face-to-face in a repeat of last season’s Super Rugby final.
Swys de Bruin’s men opened the scoring in the 14th minute when quick hands to the left saw hooker Malcolm Marx feed Tambwe who raced over. That score came eight minutes after Crusaders fly-half Mitch Hunt missed his first penalty attempt from 40 metres out, straight in front.
The visitors must have thought their luck was out when they had a score chalked off by the TMO as Hunt’s pass to George Bridge was deemed forward. Five minutes after that another forward pass from Hunt to Bridge also saw play halted, with the wing eyeing the line once again.
The closing stages of the half was dominated by fine defensive work at the breakdown as both sides won relieving penalties for the cause, but one also felt the Lions were overplaying their hand, especially in the 40th minute as they wanted to play on instead of finding touch.
The Crusaders needed to score first in the second period and did just that on 50 minutes as Whitelock crossed wide on the left, with Hunt landing the touchline conversion to nudge his side 7-5 in front. It was a worrying moment for the Lions as the Crusaders upped the tempo.
So it proved as Manasa Mataele then set up Goodhue for their second try shortly afterwards, with the former’s run getting the go-forward.
At 14-5 down the Lions then snubbed three points in front of goal, which backfired as the Crusaders’ scrum stood up well when it mattered.
The Crusaders would almost cross again on 65 minutes when David Havili strolled over, but replays showed the impressive Mataele had stood on the sideline in the build up. That would have wrapped up the four points for the Crusaders but one still felt they looked comfortable.
And despite a late Jantjies penalty, the New Zealanders calmly saw out the game near halfway as they once again conquered Ellis Park.
For Lions: 08
For Crusaders: 14
Tries: Whitelock, Goodhue
Cons: Hunt 2
Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Sylvian Mahuza, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Madosh Tambwe, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Dillon Smit, 8 Hacjivah Dayimani, 7 Cyle Brink, 6 Kwagga Smith, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Dylan Smith
Replacements: 16 Corne Fourie, 17 Jacques Van Rooyen, 18 Jacobie Adriaanse 19 Lourens Erasmus, 20 Marvin Orie, 21 Marnus Schoeman, 22 Howard Mnisi, 23 Shaun Reynolds
Crusaders: 15 David Havili, 14 Seta Tamanivalu, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 George Bridge, 10 Mitchell Hunt, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Jordan Taufua, 7 Matt Todd, 6 Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, 5 Sam Whitelock (c), 4 Scott Barrett, 3 Michael Alaalatoa, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Tim Perry
Replacements: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Oliver Jager, 19 Quinten Strange, 20 Tom Sanders, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Mike Delany, 23 Manasa Mataele
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Rasta Rasivhenge (South Africa), Egon Seconds (South Africa)
Television match official: Marius Jonker (South Africa)