Eight tries to three
The Lions produced their best performance of the season to record their biggest win ever over the Cheetahs (60-25) at Ellis Park on Saturday.
Having scored just 23 tries in their 15 other matches this season, the Lions unleashed their full attacking fury on a hapless Cheetahs team to cross the tryline eight times in this game.
It was their seventh win of the season, their best Super Rugby season since the split from the Cheetahs, which saw them overtake the Reds in 12th place on the standings.
As was expected, the Lions dominated the set pieces, especially the scrums - where Springbok Coenie Oosthuizen had a torrid time against the unheralded Schalk van der Merwe. And Oosthuizen was one of three Cheetahs sent to the sin bin for repeated infringements.
At the breakdown it was a brutal contest, but it was with ball in hand that these two teams really impressed.
Both teams made their intent clear from the opening salvo. throwing the ball around with gay abandon.
However, the first points came via penalties - first Johan Goosen in the seventh minute and the reply from Elton Jantjies two minutes later.
The first try came towards the end of the first quarter - Willie le Roux and Raymond Rhule combining for Le Roux to score. A skip-pass by Goosen found Le Roux, who skipped the outside players to Rhule. He beat his man with ease and passed back inside to Le Roux. Goosen's conversion made it 10-3.
Jantjies narrowed the gap to 6-10 with his second penalty, before the Lions employed a powerful maul that was eventually sacked illegally and deliberately - earning Philip van der Walt 10 minutes in the sin bin for repeated infringements and a professional foul.
Despite the infringements the Lions, after a quick recycle of the ball and some sublime hands by Nicolaas Hanekom, saw Lionel Mapoe going over for their first try. Jantjies made it `13-10 with the conversion.
Goosen levelled matter with his second penalty soon after the restart.
However, the Lions were quickly back on attack and after some great work down the left wing by Jaco Kriel, scrumhalf Ross Cronje sniped around a scrum for the second try.
The Lions' third try was even more amazing, as a result of the creativity and sublime skills on display - this time by the backs. Eventually Mapoe went over for his second five-pointer.
Jantjies, who kicked both conversions for a 27-13 lead, was then yellow carded right on the half-time hooter for repeated infringements and a professional foul.
Despite being a man short, the Lions hung on to their 14-point (27-13) lead, going into the half-time break.
The Cheetahs, using their one-man advantage, went on the offensive from the outset after the break - playing from side to side till Cornal Hendricks beat his marker, Anthony Volmink, with ease for his team's second try. Goosen's conversion was on target - 20-27.
However, after being warned for repeatedly collapsing the scrums, Coenie Oosthuizen transgressed again and was sent for a 10-minute spell in the bin.
The Lions, with a powerful maul, scored their fourth (bonus-point) try - Robbie Coetzee getting the armchair ride. Jantjies made it 34-20.
It wasn't long before the Cheetahs being down to 13 men, Bok flyhalf Johan Goosen given 10 minutes in the bin for cynically killing the ball just metres from his line. The Lions eventually did get the ball out and No.8 Warren Whiteley strolled over - Jantjies' conversion making it 41-20.
The sixth try, by fullback Andries Coetzee, was predictable - the Cheetahs opting for long, skip-passes and the Lions player accepting the gift to sprint almost 90 metres. Jantjies made it nine-from-nine with the boot - 48-20.
The Cheetahs' third try also came from an error, a stray pass dropping ion the ground and Cornal Hendricks booting ahead before using his superior pace to get the five-pointer. Goosen's conversion attempt was wide - 25-48.
It was to be expected that the Cheetahs would get more desperate and offer up chances to the Lions - Mapoe finishing off a team effort for his hat-trick, after the Cheetahs turned the ball over inside the Lions' 22 and the home team's forwards putting on display some sublime off-loading skills.
Then replacement front row forward Corne Fourie sold the biggest dummy of the season - to Bok fullback Willie le Roux - for the eighth try.
Jantjies kicked one more conversion for a personal contribution of 20 points (seven conversions and two penalties) and a 60-25 win.
Man of the match: Willie le Roux is always entertaining and creative, even if he makes some silly errors - at least he is trying. Cornal Hendricks showed why he became a Springbok this year, beating his marker with ease on more than one occasion and also using his superior pace. Elton Jantjies justified his selection in his 50th, and last, match for the Lions - even if he was yellow carded. The Lions' loose trio - Warren Whiteley, Warwick Tecklenburg and Jaco Kriel - were invaluable to the team's cause, with Kriel's skill levels simply sublime. However, out award goes to the Lions' front row of Julian Redelinghuys, Robbie Coetzee and Schalk van der Merwe. Their superior scrumming is what set the tone for the deserved win.
For the Lions:
Tries: Mapoe 3, Cronje, R Coetzee, Whiteley, A Coetzee, Fourie
Cons: Jantjies 7
Pens: Jantjies 2
For the Cheetahs:
Tries: Le Roux, Hendricks 2
Cons: Goosen 2
Pens: Goosen 2
Yellow card: Philip van der Walt (Cheetahs, 22 - repeated infringements, collapsing the maul), Elton Jantjies (Lions, 39 - repeated infringements at the breakdown and a professional foul), Coenie Oosthuizen (Cheetahs, 52 - repeated infringements, scrum collapse), Johan Goosen (Cheetahs, 55 - professional foul, cynically killing the ball)
Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Lionel Mapoe, 13 Nicolaas Hanekom, 12 Alwyn Hollenbach, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Warwick Tecklenburg, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Franco Mostert, 3 Julian Redelinghuys, 2 Robbie Coetzee, 1 Schalk van der Merwe.
Replacements: 16 Armand van der Merwe, 17 Corne Fourie, 18 Ruan Dreyer, 19 Willie Britz, 20 Derick Minnie, 21 Faf de Klerk, 22 Marnitz Boshoff, 23 Courtnall Skosan.
Cheetahs: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Ryno Benjamin, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Teboho Mohoje, 6 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 5 Francois Uys, 4 Lodewyk de Jager, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Adriaan Strauss (captain), 1 Caylib Oosthuizen.
Replacements: 16 Kevin Stevens, 17 Luan de Bruin, 18 Carl Wegner, 19 Jean Cook, 20 Henco Venter, 21 Shaun Venter, 22 Elgar Watts, 23 Hennie Daniller.
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen
Assistant referees: Stuart Berry, Jaco van Heerden
TMO: Shaun Veldsman