The Lions thrashed the Bulls 35-49 at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria after a second-half rout to keep up their impressive undefeated record against South African opposition.
The game was not as close as the final score suggests because the Bulls scored two tries in the last few minutes.
The Lions scored seven tries to four, led by their loose forwards and powered by their scrum and driving maul.
After racing to a 9-21 first-half lead, the Bulls scored either side of the break to level the scores 21-all.
Two yellow cards in quick succession in the third quarter saw the 13-man Bulls concede three tries in five minutes.
John Mitchell’s spirited side did not give up, but they were no match last year’s runners-up.
They could not deal with the Lions pace and precision, nor their precise set-piece, which demolished their hosts.
The Lions are South Africa’s premier Super Rugby side. They play with a tempo and intensity that no other teams can match.
Marnitz Boshoff gave the home side the lead with an early penalty, but the men from Johannesburg found their mojo.
Both props Ruan Dreyer and Jacques Van Rooyen put their team 3-14, up. Boshoff kicked two more penalties to reduce the lead to five points.
But, the Lions only deal sevens; threes would not be enough for the young home team.
Marvin Orie increased the visitors lead with a good finish.
Johnny Kotze finished off a piece of magic from Handre Pollard before half-time and the Springbok flyhalf, playing inside centre today, crossed early after the break.
The scores were level 21-all and Mitchell’s team had clawed their way back into a game they looked out of after half-an-hour.
Malcolm Marx, SA Rugby, Super Rugby and Young Player of the Year, could not be denied another Super Rugby try.
The Springbok hooker’s score started a surreal six-minute period where the Lions put together one of the tournament’s best phases of play.
They scored three converted tries and the Bulls had Conraad van Vuuren and Nic de Jager yellow carded for multiple infringements by their team-mates.
The game was as good as dead. Ross Cronje scored his team’s seventh before Lizo Gqoboka and Travis Ismaiel’s scores gave the scoreboard a look of respectability.
Final score: Bulls 35 (14) Lions 49 (21)
Tries – Kotze, Pollard, Gqoboka, Ismaiel
Pen – Boshoff (3)
Con – Boshoff, Pollard (2)
Cards – C. Van Vuuren (Yellow, 53′), De Jager (Yellow, 55′)
Tries – Dreyer, Van Rooyen, Orie, Marx, Penalty try, Mahuza, Cronje
Con – Jantjies (6)
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen
Assistant Ref 1: Rasta Rasivhenge
Assistant Ref 2: Stephan Geldenhuys
TMO: Christie du Preez
15 Divan Rossouw, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12Handré Pollard (Captain), 11 Johnny Kotze, 10 Marnitz Boshoff, 9 Andre Warner, 8 Hanro Liebenberg, 7 Thembelani Bholi, 6 Roelof Smit, 5 Lodewyk de Jager, 4 Rudolph Snyman, 3 Frans van Wyk, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Pierre Schoeman.
Replacements: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Lizo Gqoboka, 18 Conraad van Vuuren, 19 Nic de Jager, 20 Marco van Staden, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Francois Brummer, 23 Warrick Gelant.
15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Sylvian Mahuza, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Warren Whiteley (captain), 7 Francois Mostert, 6 Cyle Brink, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Jacques Van Rooyen.
Replacements: 16 Robbie Coetzee, 17 Dylan Smith, 18 Jacobus Adriaanse, 19 Lourens Erasmus, 20 Marnus Schoeman, 21 Marco Jansen Van Vuren, 22 Harold Vorster, 23 Madosh Tambwe.