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Battling Lions fall just short

Elton Jantjies missed a last-minute conversion in controversial circumstances as the Lions were narrowly beaten by the Highlanders after a battling comeback in Dunedin.

The Highlanders charged and halted Jantjies before he was about to kick, with the fly-half's attempt at goal hitting the post. It meant the Lions fell to an agonising 23-22 defeat after trailing 23-0 at half-time.

The referee could have given Jantjies the option to retake the kick, but he decided not to and blew the final whistle which meant the home side claimed a narrow win, with the Lions having to satisfy themselves with two bonus points after they scored four tries and finished within seven points of their hosts.

Richard Buckman scored twice for the Highlanders and crossed for his first try in the second minute, with Hayden Parker converting from the touchline to take an early lead.

Parker increased the home side's lead to 10-0 midway through the first half after the Lions were penalised at the scrum before he added a drop goal.

Buckman then crossed for his second of the night, with Parker missing the conversion, as the Highlanders took a 23-0 lead into the break.

The first half had been all about the home side but the Lions roared back in the second, with Faf de Klerk pouncing over the line near to the posts for their first score of the night in the 42nd minute, with Marnitz Boshoff adding the extras.

The Highlanders were reduced to 14 men in the 53rd minute when Chris King was shown a yellow card for hitting Warren Whiteley flush on the jaw with his elbow.

Despite their one-man advantage, the Lions were not able to add any points while King was in the sin-bin, but they did find their way through when their opponents were back up to full strength when Lionel Mapoe crossed in the 66th minute after a counter-attack.

Boshoff missed the conversion, but the Lions had the momentum, with Armand van der Merwe crossing with 10 minutes remaining, although the Lions stand-off missed the target again.

Warwick Tecklenburg had a try chalked off for the Lions at the base of the posts in the 77th minute but the visitors did score again through Courtnall Skosan in the corner after a period of relentless pressure.

It left Jantjies with the task of kicking a match-winning conversion but his effort hit the post under pressure from the onrushing Highlanders, meaning the Lions saw victory snatched from their grasp at the death.

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