The Vodacom Blue Bulls scored two tries in the last three minutes to beat the Lions 48-33 in the U21 Championship final in Johannesburg on Friday.
This handed the Pretoria side their second title in as many years, but this defence was in doubt until five minutes from time in a highly entertaining match worthy of a final and played by the best two teams in the competition.
The Bulls held their nerve better in the second half and while trailing 17-10 at the break, continued to use their expansive game to good effect, scoring six tries in the second stanza.
The Lions dominated the middle part of the match through their pack and their rolling mauls. However, the greater flexibility of the Bulls attacking arsenal proved the difference in the end.
Bulls winger Stravino Jacobs was again instrumental and his brace of tries in the final took his overall tally of tries to seven in the competition and he finished top of the try-scoring pile.
A dramatic final 15 minutes of the match saw the Bulls take the lead for the first time since the opening 10 minutes, through quickfire tries from replacement scrumhalf Keagan Johannes, who broke wide from a scrum and then kicked ahead to regather himself for a spectacular individual effort, and hooker Janco Uys, who atoned for his first-half yellow card by scoring under the poles.
The Lions looked set to mount a strong comeback when replacement prop Ebot Buma crashed over the line to make it 36-33 with five minutes left on the clock.
However, a crunching tackle from Bulls centre Diego Appollis dislodged the ball as the Lions attacked from deep inside their own half, with replacement back Dawid Kellerman pouncing on the loose ball and racing through to score the match-winner. There was still time for another try though, as Bulls prop Jan-Hendrik Wessels caught the Lions napping with a quick-tap penalty and bulldozed his way over the tryline.
Blue Bulls 48 (10) – Tries: Stravino Jacobs (2), Bernard van der Linde, Keagan Johannes, Janco Uys, David Kellerman, Jan-Hendrik Wessels. Conversions: Richard Kriel (2), David Coetzer (3). Penalty: Richard Kriel
Lions 33 (17) – Tries: Sibusiso Sangweni, Cal Smid, Francke Horn, Prince Nkabinde, Ebot Buma. Conversions: Luke Rossouw (4).
Photo: Frans Lombard/@BlueBullsRugby/Twitter