Johan Ackermann’s side put on a display of attacking rugby in their 51-14 dismantling of the Bulls at Ellis Park in Johannesburg.
Last year’s runners-up scored four tries in nine first-half minutes, killing the game before the half-hour mark, as they raced to a 25-point lead at the break.
The Lions forwards were utterly dominant and their backline cut through the Bulls from the first minute to the last, as they racked up seven tries in posting a half-century.
Ruan Combrinck was back with a bang, the ‘Punisher’ scored two tries, as he showed the form that made him a Springbok.
Elton Jantjies was superb at standoff, scoring 16 points while dictating his team’s tempo and running the show at first-receiver.
Kwagga Smith and skipper Warren Whiteley, got through an enormous amount of work, both in the loose and tight phases, scoring a try apiece.
Franco Mostert put his name in the Bok reckoning with a hybrid Bakkies Botha/Victor Matfield-like performance, setting up Ruan Dreyer’s try and scoring one himself.
Lionel Mapoe added insult to injury with a last-play dagger, as the Lions scored fifty and kept the Nollis Marais’ team scoreless for the last 61 minutes.
Nollis Marais’ team could not handle their opponent’s intensity and were blown away. Jan Serfontein’s seventh minute try brought the scores level at 7-all before Janjies’ kicked two penalties to give the Lions a 13-7 lead.
Smith’s 20th-minute try started the period of nine minutes where the two sides scored five tries between themselves.
Jantjies cleared a kick down the field, Courtnall Skosan collected and danced his way into the Bulls’ 22, drew the cover defenders and passed to Whiteley – who else? – in support.
The skipper fended off a tackle and passed the ball to the Blitzbok legend to score. Jantjies’ conversion made it 20-7.
Dreyer scored next; the big man did his best Richard Bands impression, running 25 metres to score under the posts after collecting Mostert’s pass.
The lock made the initial break after Jantjies put him in a hole, and he managed to get a pass away to the prop.
He could not have thought it was the tighthead in support. Malcolm Marx, the hooker was there too, if Mostert saw him.
The Bulls hit back through Jesse Kriel. The fullback powered through Smith and Skosan, before running away to reduce the deficit to 13 points.
The Lions’ skipper put an end to any comeback that their rivals might have been thinking about. on a loose ball after charging down Rudy Paige’s box-kick. After consulting the TMO, Quinton Immelman awards the try
He dived on a loose ball after charging down Rudy Paige’s box-kick. After consulting the TMO, Quinton Immelman awarded the try; 34-14, and game over.
The home side Ackermann’s men were not finished, Combrinck this time, getting his second try after receiving Jantjies’ long pass.
With a 25-point half-time deficit, the Bulls could not get themselves up for the second-half. They did play better, shoring up their defence, but in truth, the Lions were profligate with the ball.
Mostert scored soon after the break to make it 44-14, but the next time the scoreboard ticked over, was in the 80th minute after Mapoe rounded off a great play.
Jantjies’ fifth conversion brought up the milestone and humiliation for the once proud bulls.
Final score: Lions 51 (39) Bulls 14 (14)
Tries – Combrinck (2), Smith, Dreyer, Whiteley, Mostert, Mapoe
Pen – Jantjies (2)
Con – Jantjies (5)
Tries – Serfontein, Kriel
Con – Brummer (2)
Referee: Quinton Immelman
Assistant Ref 1: AJ Jacobs
Assistant Ref 2: Pro Legoete
TMO: Marius Jonker
15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Warren Whiteley (captain), 7 Ruan Ackermann, 6 Albertus Smith, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Jacques van Rooyen.
Replacements: 16 Armand van der Merwe, 17 Corné Fourie, 18 Johannes Jonker, 19 Lourens Erasmus, 20 Cyle Brink, 21 Francois de Klerk, 22 Jacques Nel, 23 Anthony Volmink.
Bulls: 15 Jesse Kriel, 14 Jade Stighling, 13 Jan Serfontein, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Sibahle Maxwane, 10 Francois Brummer, 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Hanro Liebenberg (captain), 7 Jannes Kirsten, 6 Ruan Steenkamp, 5 Lodewyk de Jager, 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Lizo Gqoboka.
Replacements: 16 Edgar Marutlulle, 17 Pierre Schoeman, 18 Conraad van Vuuren, 19 Abongile Nonkontwana, 20 Nic de Jager, 21 Ivan van Zyl, 22 Tony Jantjies, 23 Warrick Gelant.
More to follow…