Match 1, Feb 17: Sharks (home) WON 26-19: In a tightly contested game, the Lions dominated the scrums, while the Sharks won the line-out battle; hooker Malcolm Marx having an off day as he missed his jumpers on four occasions. Kwagga Smith, Aphiwe Dyantyi and Lionel Mapoe, with two, scored their team’s tries.
Match 2, Feb 24: Jaguares (home) WON 47-27: The Lions fell 10-0 behind early on, but then dominated the encounter, running in seven tries in a comfortable victory. Dyantyi was the star of the show, scoring two wonderful tries, the others coming from Andries Coetzee, Sylvian Mahuza, Rohan Janse van Rensburg and Warren Whiteley. There was also a penalty try.
Match 3, Mar 3: Bulls (away) WON 49-35: In a fairly even contest, the Lions took full advantage of the Bulls being handed two yellow cards in the second half. It was a performance the Lions forwards showed they’d be a real force in 2018. Ruan Dreyer, Jacques van Rooyen, Marvin Orie, Malcolm Marx, Mahuza and Ross Cronje scored tries. There was also a penalty try.
Match 4, Mar 10: Blues (home) LOST 35-38: The men from Auckland shocked the Lions with a winning try after the hooter had sounded in this 10-try thriller. The Lions were 21-3 up at the break and in total control before they lost Whiteley to injury (for a number of months), and their grip on the match.
Match 5, Mar 17: Sunwolves (home) WON 40-38: The Lions were well and truly in the midst of a major wobble and they just scraped past the Sunwolves.
Match 6, Mar 24: Jaguares (away) LOST 35-49: The Lions lost for the third time in as many years in Buenos Aires, going down for the second time in the competition in three weeks. Poor tackling cost the Lions as the Jaguares scored seven tries; the Lions scored five, with Marx getting two for the second week in a row.
Match 7, Apr 1: Crusaders (home) LOST 8-14: In a tight game, the Crusaders outscored the Lions two tries to one, wing Madosh Tambwe getting the five-pointer for his team. Were it not for a few marginal forward-pass calls and a Crusaders player just touching the outline, the visitors could have coasted to victory.
Match 8, Apr 7: Stormers (home) WON 52-31: The wounded Lions hit back in style with a commanding win against the Stormers, with wing Tambwe getting a hat-trick of tries within 15 minutes, and four in total. In all, the Lions scored eight tries to the Stormers’ three, the others coming from Mapoe, Ruan Combrinck, Smith and Franco Mostert.
Match 9, Apr 20: Waratahs (away) WON 29-0: Having enjoyed a bye and travelled to Australia just three days before their match, the Lions were sensational. They scored 22 second half points after leading 7-0 at the break, with Tambwe, Smith, Harold Vorster and Marnus Schoeman getting the five-pointers.
Match 10, Apr 28: Reds (away) LOST 22-27: Having already lost to the Blues, the Lions suffered a second shock defeat in the season when they went down to the lowly Reds in Brisbane. It was an error-ridden and ill-disciplined display by the Lions who scored late to get a bonus point. The Lions' four tries came from Marx and Schoeman, who both scored twice.
Match 11, May 5: Hurricanes (away) LOST 19-28: In an entertaining match where the Hurricanes outscored the Lions four tries to three, wing Ben Lam got a hat-trick for his team. Nic Groom, Schoeman and Mahuza scored tries for the Lions, while Marx picked up an injury that would sideline him for six weeks.
Match 12, May 12: Highlanders (away) LOST 27-39: In another highly entertaining game with both teams employing an attacking style of rugby, the Highlanders edged the Lions five tries to four, to hand Swys de Bruin’s men their third loss in a row on tour of Australasia. Marx’s back-up man Robbie Coetzee scored two tries, the other coming from Schoeman and Vorster.
Match 13, May 19: Brumbies (home) WON 42-24: After a closely contested first half (21-17), the Lions ran away with the match in the second 40 minutes; the victory coming at the right time following a disappointing tour of Australasia. The ill-disciplined Brumbies lost Rory Arnold to a red card and at one stage played with 13 men. The Lions scored six converted tries to the Brumbies’ three.
Match 14, May 26: Stormers (away) WON 26-23: In another hard-fought SA derby, which the Stormers maybe dominated, the Lions took advantage of Raymond Rhule being red-carded after taking out Combrinck in an aerial duel and out-scored their hosts four tries to two.
Match 15, June 30: Sharks (away) LOST 24-31: The Lions’ 21-game unbeaten run against local sides finally came to an end in Durban after the visitors gave up a 21-11 lead at half-time. A 16-point haul from the boot of Robert du Preez and three tries to the three scored by the Lions (by Combrinck, Cyle Brink and Smith) was enough for the Sharks to come out on top.
Match 16, Jul 14: Bulls (home) WON 38-12: Having enjoyed a bye after the Sharks defeat, the Lions delivered a knockout performance against former coach John Mitchell’s Bulls. Shocked early on by two quick Bulls tries, the Lions hit back in style, with Combrinck (2), Marx, Courtnall Skosan and Dyantyi getting tries. They were also awarded a penalty try as they won the SA Conference.
Match 17 (quarter-final), Jul 21: Jaguares (home) WON 40-23: After going 6-0 down early on, the Lions scored 24 unanswered points to set themselves up for the victory. While things got a bit tight in the second half, the Lions were always in control and won comfortably in the end.
Match 18 (semi-final), July 28: Waratahs (home) WON 44-26: It was another slow start by the Lions, who were soon 14-0 down, but they hit back with 19 unanswered points to take charge of the game, and ultimately win. Smith, with two tries, was back to his best.@jacq_west