Conrad Smith’s brace ensured a 38-32 bonus point victory for the Hurricanes over the Lions at Ellis Park.
They had the Canes rattled as they went into the final quarter, up by a point, but failed to deliver the killer blow when it counted.
The Lions started with confidence as their first two movements consisted of nine and five phases respectively, but on both occasions flyhalf Andre Pretorius took the pressure off the Canes when he put boot to ball.
The difference between the two sides was clearly illustrated the first time the visitors handled. They calmly went through the phases, while the Lions also aided the Canes’ cause by missing first time tackles early on.
Canes centre Conrad Smith grabbed a brace in two minutes as backs and forwards handled with confidence. After a quarter of an hour, the Lions had done most of the attacking but were down 17-0.
The Lions had much possession but ball control was a problem, as was finishing, while basic handling errors littered their play. Contrary to the Lions, the Canes defended with vigour and holes weren’t plentiful.
One of the Lions who did manage to consistently break the line was Jaque Fourie, who made the initial bust and then later scored in their first try.
Gradually the Lions began to show more composure and started breaking tackles. As the pressure increased the penalty count mounted and Pretorius popped over two, but crucially missed one straight in front that would have brought his team within three points.
Another loss of concentration from the hosts saw the Canes strike just before half-time, with scrumhalf Alby Mathewson finding a hole next to the ruck. His team were 24-11 ahead going into the shed.
The hosts had the dream start to the second spell as Fourie claimed his second after a sniping break from centre partner Doppies la Grange off a stolen lineout. The next also came from the set-piece when Todd Clever scored for his first Super 14 try which the Lions hit the lead for the first time in the match.
However, while the Lions continued to miss opportunities the Canes had two forays into opposition 22m and sealed the result with tries from Ma’a Nonu and replacement Willie Ripia .
Substitute Shandre Frolick gave the Lions hope with a try a minute from full-time, but from the kick-off Frolick unbelievably decided to put the ball out.
With that the siren sounded and the Lions had blown their chance for a comeback win, although they do claim two log points.
They now embark on a four-match tour and face the Chiefs in Hamilton next weekend.
By Grant Ball