The Lions beat the Chiefs 17-23 with a dominant display, recording back-to-back against away victories against Waikato at FMG Stadium, Hamilton.
The Lions survived a late fightback by the Chiefs, who scored three tries in the fourth quarter to claw back a 20-point deficit in a thrilling Good Friday Super Rugby clash.
Elton Jantjies, who scored 13 points, kicked a last-minute drop-goal to seal the deal for his side.
This was as dominant an away performance as you get in Super Rugby. The Lions were magnificent in every facet of play and won the game up front in the tight phases.
The South Africans dominated the first half, winning four scrum-penalties as Carlu Sadie destroyed Angus Ta’avao on their way two a 20-point lead.
Sadie and Aphiwe Dyantyi both crossed late in the second quarter and the metronomic boot of Elton Jantjies, playing inside-centre, chipped away at the scoreboard.
The Chiefs did not give in, keeping the Lions scoreless until the 81st-minute as they piled on the pressure with 17 unanswered points of their own.
Tries from Sean Wainui, Nepo Laulala and Tumua Manu brought Waikato to within touching distance of victory, but Marty McKenzie missed two vital conversions, which ultimately proved costly.
But the fightback was in vain as the tourists clung to an impressive and rare road victory in New Zealand.
Lions overcome disruptive build-up and disruptions to lay platform for win
Lions head coach Swys de Bruin and Courtnall Skosan were forced to return to South Africa, hampering the Johannesburg side’s preparations.
Jantjies kicked his side into a 6-point lead as the Lions’ scrum pulverised the opposition’s pack.
Chiefs suffer set-piece nightmare
The Lions enjoyed 67% possession and 64% territory in the opening stanza, winning all five scrums and six lineouts, while the home team lost both their two scrums while bleeding penalties.
Saide broke Ta’avao, who shipped three first-half penalties at four of the set-pieces. The Chiefs did not win a scrum until late in the second half.
It forced them to opt for lineouts when they did get some possession, but Warren Whiteley and Kwagga Smith bossed the breakdown as the hosts were kept scoreless.
The South Africans were not going to win by collecting threes.
Tries win Super Rugby matches, and the first five-pointer arrived when Sadie finished off a sustained period of pressure inside the opposition’s 22.
The Lions had had a couple of seven-phase attacks but could not cross the whitewash.
This time they went six phases, recycling quickly before the tighthead drove his way over from close range.
Sadie was having some game. Some sloppy play by Alex Nankivell gifted possession to the tourists. Whiteley, who was excellent all game, showed a flash side to his game.
The number eight stabbed a well-weighted grubber down the touchline for Dyantyi.
The flyer had to beat the covering Wainui to the bounce before racing away to score.
Jantjies’ second conversion gave the visitors a big lead going into the break.
Kiwi comeback in vain
The second half was an arm-wrestle. The Lions enjoyed a fair share of the territory and possession up until the last 20 minutes when they faded.
Gianni Lombard and Jantjies had combined well at first and second receiver, but when Lombard left the field with a knee injury, the game turned.
The Chiefs started to find some momentum while the Lions looked set to defend their deserved lead.
This can be dangerous, as we all know because, after a few rudderless attacks, the home side got into their groove.
Brad Weber provided the spark after his forwards won their first solid scrum. The scrumhalf broke blind down the sideline and into the opposition’s 22.
The ball was recycled quickly, shifted inside and wide to the grateful Wainui to score in the right-hand corner. McKenzie missed the conversion attempt.
Less than three minutes later the chiefs had their second.
Dyantyi’s poor clearance set up the counter-attack, which was finished by tighthead prop Laulala.
McKenzie, to the groans of the crowd, missed his second attempt.
The Lions were all over the place. Wave after wave of Chiefs’ attacks was pushed back.
The tourists did have an opportunity, but nothing came of an 11-phase attack. With less than four minutes to play, the Chiefs struck again.
It started with some inspirational play by McKenzie.
The first-five looked up saw Nankivell free on the wing and kicked into space.
The centre gathered and popped to Manu, in support, for the score.
The Lions had a chance to run down the clock, but after getting a penalty-advantage, Jantjies – curiously – decided for a drop-kick, instead of keeping possession.
His wobbly kick went over, and the Lions held on for a famous win.
Final score: Chiefs 17 (0) Lions 23 (20)
Tries – Wainui, Laulala, Manu
Con – M. McKenzie
Tries – Sadie, Dyantyi
Pen – Jantjies (2)
Con – Jantjies (2)
Drop – Jantjies
Referee: Brendon Pickerill
Assistant Ref 1: Mike Fraser
Assistant Ref 2: Rasta Rasivhenge
TMO: Shane McDermott
15 Jack Debreczeni, 14 Sean Wainui, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Alex Nankivell, 11 Ataata Moeakiola, 10 Marty McKenzie, 9 Brad Weber (captain), 8 Taleni Seu, 7 Lachlan Boshier, 6 Luke Jacobson, 5 Mitchell Brown, 4 Tyler Ardron, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Liam Polwart, 1 Angus Ta’avao.
Replacements: 16 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 17 Atu Moli, 18 Sosefo Kautai, 19 Jesse Parete, 20 Pita Gus Sowakula, 21 Jonathan Taumateine, 22 Tumua Manu, 23 Shaun Stevenson.
15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Sylvian Mahuza, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Elton Jantjies, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Gianni Lombard, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Warren Whiteley (captain), 7 Cyle Brink, 6 Albertus Smith, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Stephan Lewies, 3 Carlu Sadie, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Sti Sithole.
Replacements: 16 Robbie Coetzee, 17 Frans Van Wyk, 18 Johannes Jonker, 19 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 20 Marnus Schoeman, 21 Nic Groom, 22 Franco Naude, 23 Ruan Combrinck.