A hat-trick of tries from Ryan Crotty helped the Crusaders to a 37-43 Super Rugby victory over the Lions in Johannesburg.
The Crusaders outscored the Lions by six tries to four in the match and the result extends the Crusaders unbeaten run against the Lions to eight matches.
Three of the Crusaders tries were scored by Ryan Crotty who was also named man of the match.
Crotty opened the scoring within just 50 seconds, and he added two tries within three minutes after half-time to push the New Zealand side into a 20-36 lead with half-an-hour to go.
The Crusaders added another late touchdown through replacement scrumhalf Mitchell Drummond to ensure that the seven-time champions leave South Africa with a 100 percent record after they beat the Sharks 14-19 last weekend.
Crotty set the tone for a match characterised by outstanding attacking play from both teams as they looked to keep ball-in-hand and outwork the defences with creativity and skill.
Lions flyhalf Elton Jantjies – who was passed fit at the last minute after battling with a wrist injury – was turned over inside his own half within the first minute, and the Crusaders showed how ruthless they can be as the ball was spread quickly to giant wing Nemani Nadolo, who drew the last defender before putting Crotty over.
The Johannesburg team struck back almost immediately with some scintillating attacking play themselves as centre Howard Mnisi drew the defence before passing inside to wing Ruan Combrinck, who cut the line and sent Lionel Mapoe through for the try.
But then captain Kieran Read and his team went into overdrive to score twice within six minutes through wing Johnny McNicholl -who intercepted a loopy pass from Lions scrumhalf Faf de Klerk – and prop Wyatt Crockett.
The home team, though, didn’t take a step back as a lineout maul nearly got them over the line, and the ball was sent quickly through the backs for Jantjies to finish in the corner.
Even though Jantjies kicked a penalty in the 32nd minute to put the Lions 20-19 ahead, it was cancelled out by Crusaders pivot Richard Mo’unga, who slotted a three-pointer himself to regain a one-point advantage for the visitors.
But eight minutes after the break, Crotty produced a double-strike – first by slicing through three Lions defenders for his second try, and then almost walking over in the left-hand corner for his hat trick.
Fiery Lions replacement hooker Akker van der Merwe brought the Lions back into contention after finishing off following a break by wing Courtnall Skosan, and with eight minutes to go, he barged over from a tap penalty.
But Drummond’s try in between Van der Merwe’s scores was the difference in the end, with the Lions grabbing a consolation losing bonus point when Jantjies kicked a last-minute penalty.
Lions flyhalf Jantjies ended with a 22-point haul, while opposite number Mo’unga also kicked well at goal to accumulate 13.
Next week in Round Seven the Crusaders play the Western Force on their way back to New Zealand while the Lions play the Sharks in Durban.
Final Score Lions 37 (20) Crusaders 43 (22)
Tries – L.Mapoe, E.Jantjies, A.van der Merwe 2
Pen – E.Jantjies 3
Con – E.Jantjies 4
Tries – R.Crotty 3, J.McNicholl, W.Crockett, M.Drummond
Pen – R.Mo’unga
Con – R.Mo’unga 5
Referee: Stuart Berry
Assistant Ref 1:Craig Joubert
Assistant Ref 2:AJ Jacobs
TMO : Johan Greeff
15 Andries Coetzee , 14 Ruan Combrinck , 13 Lionel Mapoe , 12 Howard Mnisi , 11 Courtnall Skosan , 10 Elton Jantjies/Marnitz Boshoff , 9 Faf de Klerk , 8 Warren Whiteley (c) , 7 Warwick Tecklenburg , 6 Jaco Kriel , 5 Franco Mostert , 4 Andries Ferreira/Lourens Erasmus , 3 Julian Redelinghuys , 2 Malcolm Marx , 1 Dylan Smith
Replacements : 16 Armand van der Merwe , 17 Corne Fourie , 18 Ruan Dreyer , 19 Ruan Ackermann , 20 Cyle Brink , 21 Dillon Smit , 22 Jaco van der Walt , 23 Rohan Janse van Rensburg
1. Wyatt Crockett ,2. Codie Taylor, 3. Owen Franks ,4. Luke Romano ,5. Scott Barrett ,6. Jimmy Tupou ,7. Matt Todd ,8. Kieran Read (C) ,9. Andy Ellis ,10. Richie Mo’unga ,11. Nemani Nadolo ,12. Ryan Crotty , 13. Kieron Fonotia, 14. Johnny McNicholl ,15. David Havili
Replacements : 16. Ben Funnell ,17. Joe Moody,18. Mike Alaalatoa,19. Sam Whitelock , 20. Jordan Taufua,21. Mitchell Drummond , 22. Ben Volavola, 23. Sean Wainui.