Lions earn battling win
The Lions held off a spirited late fightback from the Bulls to post a 32-21 Super 15 victory in the local derby encounter at Ellis Park on Saturday.
The Bulls bossed territory and possession in the first half but trailed 9-6 at the break, the hosts racing into a 9-0 lead thanks to the boot of fly-half Marnitz Boshoff before opposite number Jacques-Louis Potgieter kicked two penalties to get the visitors back in touch.
Potgieter levelled matters with another penalty at the start of the second half, but that sparked the Lions into action. Alwyn Hollenbach and Warwick Tecklenburg scored tries - both converted by Boshoff, who also added a penalty just for good measure.
William Small-Smith and Jacques du Plessis got the Bulls back in contention with late tries, Potgieter converting the latter, but they had left themselves too much to do and one final Boshoff penalty sealed their fate.
Lions coach Johan Ackermann shuffled his pack for the game, with Schalk van der Merwe and Robbie Coetzee starting in the front row and Chrysander Botha, Stokkies Hanekom and Courtnall Skosan named in the back line, and was forced into a late change with prop Ruan Dreyer coming in for hamstring injury victim Julian Redelinghuys.
Bulls coach Frans Ludeke made three changes to his starting line-up in Johannesburg, with Jacques Engelbrecht handed the number eight jersey, Grant Hattingh switching to lock in place of the rested Victor Matfield, and Marcel van der Merwe selected at tighthead.
The Lions began brightly, Boshoff slotting a drop goal and then nailing a penalty won from the scrum to make it 6-0 within four minutes.
Potgieter then failed in a penalty attempt for the Bulls, and Boshoff reminded him how it was done shortly afterwards with another successful kick for 9-0 before 10 minutes had elapsed.
The Bulls were finding their feet, though, and a lmost registered the first try of the game after 17 minutes, Jurgen Visser losing control and knocking on as he went over in the corner from Akona Ndungane's pass.
They went close again four minutes later when Bjorn Basson touched down in the corner, but the TMO review showed the winger had just been pushed into touch by Boshoff before scoring.
Two Potgieter penalties, after 30 and 36 minutes, finally got them on the scoreboard and they continued to press forward but the Lions' defence was holding firm.
He landed another penalty five minutes after the restart to get the Bulls back on level terms, but parity lasted less than a minute before Hollenbach burst through for the opening try. Boshoff added the extras.
The Lions had seemingly been spurred into action by their visitors having drawn level, Boshoff kicking a drop goal and a penalty before the hour mark to make it 22-9.
The Bulls were struggling to get anywhere against their hosts' solid defence by this stage and the deficit widened 12 minutes from time when Tecklenburg fell onto a pass from Hanekom, who had been brought down just short of the line, and scored. Boshoff again made no mistake with the conversion.
The visitors were not done, though, and hit back when Small-Smith went over in the corner following Bongi Mbonambi's break.
Potgieter missed the conversion, but they soon had their second try when Du Plessis burst through and crashed over. This time Potgieter did add the extras, making it 29-21.
But time was running out and they could make no further inroads, with one final Boshoff penalty a minute from time sealing victory for the Lions.