The Lions scored seven tries in their 45-10 bonus-point win against the Kings in Port Elizabeth on Saturday, writes SIMON BORCHARDT.
The victory is an important one in the context of the Africa 2 conference, as it takes the Lions five points clear of the second-placed Sharks, who beat the Highlanders in Dunedin on Friday.
Once again, the Kings were competitive for most of the first half of a match before falling away. The Lions led just 7-5 after half an hour, but took charge of the game after Thembelani Bholi was sent to the sin bin, scoring 19 points in the flanker's absence.
The Lions signalled their attacking intent by putting two kickable penalties into the corner in search of an early try. That bold approach appeared to have paid off after the second lineout driving maul, when Ruan Combrinck dotted down in the right-hand corner, but the try was disallowed when TV replays showed the ball had been knocked on at the previous ruck.
The TMO was called upon again after Howard Mnisi had attempted to ground the ball over the line, but JP du Plessis had done well on defence, forcing the Lions centre to lose possession.
It was Warren Whiteley who eventually opened the Lions' account in the 22nd minute, when he received the ball on the 22m line, just inside the left-hand touchline. The captain cut back inside past two defenders and ran around to score near the posts to make the conversion an easy one for Elton Jantjies. The flyhalf, though, would botch a simple penalty attempt soon after.
Louis Fouché's first attempt at goal, an optimistic long-range effort, fell well short, with his second attempt going just wide. But the Kings did get on the board on the half-hour mark when Luzuko Vulindlu chased down James Hall's chip kick to score an unconverted try in the right-hand corner.
The Lions, though, hit back with their second try, which came from a scrum that wheeled towards the blind side. Whiteley sensibly picked up and sent the ball that way, with Courtnall Skosan diving over. Jantjies nailed the touchline conversion.
The Kings were then reduced to 14 men when, following yet another offside infringement, Bholi was sent to the sin bin. The Lions kicked that penalty to the corner and Akker van der Merwe scored from the driving maul to make it 21-5 at the break.
It took the Lions just two minutes of the second half to add to their tally when Combrinck got around Schalk Ferreira, handed off Hall and ran 50m to score. Van der Merwe then went over for his second from another lineout driving maul.
By the time Bholi returned to the field it was 33-5 and the game was gone for the Kings.
However, the hosts were more competitive once restored to 15 men and were next to score when Chris Cloete cut inside past Whiteley and bounced off Jantjies.
The Lions responded with Combrinck's second try, with Rohan Janse van Rensburg also getting on the score sheet in the 70th minute.
Kings – Tries: Luzuko Vulindlu, Chris Cloete.
Lions – Tries: Warren Whiteley, Courtnall Skosan, Akker van der Merwe (2), Ruan Combrinck (2), Rohan Janse van Rensburg. Conversions: Elton Jantjies (5).
Kings – 15 Malcolm Jaer, 14 Luzuko Vulindlu, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Shane Gates, 11 JP du Plessis, 10 Louis Fouché, 9 James Hall, 8 CJ Velleman, 7 Thembelani Bholi, 6 Chris Cloete, 5 Steven Sykes (c), 4 Schalk Oelofse, 3 Jacobie Adriaanse, 2 Martin Ferreira, 1 Schalk Ferreira.
Subs: 16 Martin Bezuidenhoudt, 17 Tom Botha, 18 Justin Ackerman, 19 JC Astle, 20 Jacques Engelbrecht, 21 Ntando Kebe, 22 Stefan Watermeyer, 23 Leighton Eksteen.
Lions – 15 Jaco van der Walt, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Howard Mnisi, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley (c), 7 Warwick Tecklenburg, 6 Cyle Brink, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Akker van der Merwe, 1 Corné Fourie.
Subs: 16 Ramone Samuels, 17 Dylan Smith, 18 Jacques van Rooyen, 19 Ruan Ackermann, 20 Jaco Kriel, 21 Ross Cronjé, 22 JW Bell, 23 Rohan Janse van Rensburg.
Photo: Ruan Combrinck/Gallo Images