Nic Groom scored a try for the Lions against his former team the Stormers. Photo: Chris Ricco/BackpagePix

CAPE TOWN – The Lions produced a clinical finish to claim a 26-23 Super Rugby win over a 14-man Stormers side at Newlands on Saturday evening after they trailed 17-7 at the break.

Up to the time that the Stormers were reduced the 14 players, they looked like they could upset the Lions as they held a 17-7 lead at one stage. However, another setback saw them reduced to 13 players and that was simply too much to expect them to hold out against the Lions.

The teams were full of running at the start and this was the cue that the 17 000-strong Newlands crowd could be in for an entertaining encounter.

Stormers flyhalf Jean-Luc du Plessis was the first to stamp his authority on the game with a telling chip kick in the third minute. 

Dillyn Leyds gathered behind the defence and once the cover defence brought him down, the ball was recycled and scrumhalf Dewaldt Duvenage went over for a converted try (7-0).

Leyds was moved to fullback from right wing moments before kickoff, after an 11th-hour withdrawal by SP Marais. Craig Barry was moved into the wing berth.

Leyds was the villain a few minutes later, when he overcooked his chip kick and went beyond the reach of left wing Raymond Rule. Holding on to possession seemed a better option at a time when the Lions defence was at sixes and sevens.

The Stormers went further ahead in the 18th minute through a penalty by Du Plessis (10-0), but the Lions struck back immediately from the kickoff with their opening try.

The Lions' staged mauls after two five-metre scrums in quick succession but were stopped just short of the tryline, but scrumhalf Nic Groom (a former 57-capped Stormers stalwart) broke clear at the second one and dotted down to next to posts. Flyhalf Elton Jantjies added the extras (10-7).

Rule missed out on an earlier chance to score but he did make it on to the scoresheet on the half-hour mark when he dived on to Barry cross-kick, just ahead of the dead-ball line. Du Plessis rifled over the conversion from the touchline to open up a 10-point lead (17-7).

Just ahead of the break, New Zealand ref Nick Briant sin-binned Stormers' three-quarter JJ Engelbrecht.

On the stroke of halftime, Du Plessis struck the upright with a penalty attempt. The Lions latched on to rebound and counter-attacked for two minutes without success as the Stormers defence only just held out to keep their 17-7 lead intact at the break.

Ten minutes into the second period the Stormers suffered a major setback when Rule was red-carded after a dangerous tackle which knocked Lions right wing Ruan Combrinck out cold. 

With a one-man advantage and 30 minutes playing time left, the Stormers were hard-pressed to protect their lead. 

It took a mere four minutes to capitalise when they breached the opposition defence with reserve hooker Corné Fourie diving over. Jantjies' conversion reduced the deficit to five points (17-12).

Just ahead of the hour mark, the Stormers were reduced to 13 players when Jaco Coetzee was yellow-carded and with that the home side's hopes of holding out for a win.

Coetzee had hardly taken his place on the 'sin-bin' chair when Fourie scored a converted try, his second of the match, from a Lions maul and with that the Lions took the lead for the first time in the match (19-17).

The 13-man Stormers waged a strong fightback and eight minutes after Fourie's second try, Du Plessis regained the lead with a penalty, smack bang in front of the posts (20-19).

There was more good fortune for the Stormers a few minutes later when Du Plessis was on target with another penalty for a 23-19 lead.

But the Lions put the final result beyond all doubt when Madosh Tambwe crossed at the corner four minutes from the end. Jantjies rounded off the scoring with a touchline conversion for a 26-23 Lions victory 

Points-Scorers

Stormers 23 – Tries: Dewaldt Duvenage, Raymond Rhule. Conversions: Jean-Luc du Plessis (2). Penalties: Du Plessis (3).

Lions 26 – Tries: Nic Groom, Corné Fourie (2), Madosh Tambwe. Conversions: Elton Jantjies (3).

African News Agency (ANA)