Johannesburg — The Lions bagged just their third victory of the competition as they ran out 37-20 victors against Cardiff in their United Rugby Championship match at Ellis Park, in Johannesburg, on Sunday.
While the Lions showed good attacking flare in the first half, as they scored three tries, the second half became about defending their lead. In that respect, they were successful as they were able to grind out a victory as they outscored the visitors by four tries to two.
Ultimately, the five points for the win did nothing for their log position as the Lions remain in 14th position in the 16-team competition. However, they draw closer to 13th-placed Cardiff as the Johannesburg outfit moved to 17 points — one point behind their Welsh opposition.
The Lions made a scorching start with scrumhalf Morne van den Berg bursting through a tackle from close range after a lineout in the Cardiff 22 in the second minute. Flyhalf Jordan Hendrikse, whose kick downfield set-up the initial lineout, nudged over the conversion for a 7-0 lead.
Cardiff replied with a penalty from in front, slotted by flyhalf Jarrod Evans to make it 7-3 after six minutes.
A couple minutes later, the Lions had a penalty of their own as Hendrikse restored the seven-point gap with his side 10-3 ahead.
Not to be left out, Evans swiftly replied with another penalty from 35 metres to make it 10-6 inside the 12th minute.
The Lions put together their first attacking backline move on the quarter hour mark, as they moved the ball through the hands as wing Edwill van der Merwe dived over in the corner. Hendrikse promptly nailed the conversion from the touchline to see the Lions out to a 17-6 lead.
The Lions followed with another scintillating move, with flank Vincent Tshituka breaking the first tackle as the ball was then whipped out to Van der Merwe again who showed some good speed before diving over for his brace. Hendrikse was successful with the conversion as the hosts led 24-6 with a quarter of the game played.
Cardiff were over for their first try of the afternoon in the 32nd minute, with the Lions conceding a free kick, the visitors broke a couple tackles before wing Aled Summerhill sprinted away for the score. Evans added the extra two to make it 24-13.
Cardiff began the second half with serious intent, as eighthman James Botham barged his way over for a try. Evans nailed the conversion to cut the deficit at 24-20 down.
The Lions responded with a long-range Hendrikse penalty to restore their seven-point lead at 27-20 ahead.
In what was turning into a tight affair, the Lions extended their lead to 30-20, with a Hendrikse penalty in the 57th minute.
Cardiff were reduced to 14 men in the 63rd minute as replacement hooker Kristian Dacey was found guilty of a dangerous tackle.
With time up on the clock, the Lions sealed the contest with Vincent Tshituka scoring a try at the death. Hendrikse had no problem with the conversion to confirm a resounding final score of 37-20.
Lions 37 (24): Tries: Morne van den Berg, Edwill van der Merwe (2), Vincent Tshituka Conversions: Jordan Hendrikse (4). Penalties: Hendrikse (3)
Cardiff 20 (13): Tries: Aled Summerhill, James Botham. Conversions: Jarrod Evans (2) Penalty: Evans (2).