The Crusaders kept their play-off hopes alive with a 32-20 bonus-point victory over the Lions at Ellis Park.
The Saders were the worst attacking unit in the tournament before the start of the round, but they gained only their second four-try bonus of the season.
Andre Pretorius had a poor start and a disastrous game all-round, kicking directly out and continually breaking the momentum of the home team with his wayward distribution and poor option-taking.
The Lions looked productive in the opening exchanges and in the third minute they took it through eight phases but poor handling proved their undoing close to the line.
Another promising move broke down with Pretorius’s pass, and then the pivot’s aimless kick straight down the field was lapped up by Leon MacDonald who drew two defenders and sent lock Isaac Ross away. MacDonald, one of the best counter-attackers in the game, was gifted many chances to run and he didn’t need a second invitation.
The Lions also looked dangerous off a counter that led to Jano Vermaak’s try, sparked by a spot-tackle by wing Deon van Rensburg, and finished by the scrumhalf.
Debutant Johan van Deventer had a prosperous match in stealing crucial turnovers and he gave his all for the full 80, while he also put his side into the lead (12-7) with a brilliant individual effort. The former SA U20 opensider put both the Saders props on their backsides with some great stepping as he went over untouched.
But the Lions continued to make the same mistakes they have throughout the campaign. They have made it a habit of giving up points as soon as they’ve scored, and Louis Ludik’s charged-down kick did exactly that as he took an age to clear.
MacDonald and Pretorius then traded penalties as the Saders held a 17-15 lead heading into the break.
Van Deventer continued to harass the Saders at the breakdown but two turnovers were wasted by poor kicks as the visitors dominated territory throughout the second stanza. The visitors missed many try-scoring chances which could have made the scoreline even worse, Brad Thorn’s clear run-in hampered by the pass not going to hand just one example.
The Lions’ defence was improved on their woeful earlier efforts in the season, but they continued to kick poorly and hand the Saders chance after chance. The concerted pressure for the opening quarter had to tell and Thorn crashed over.
Anton van Zyl’s brilliant chip and chase – where he showed great skills for a big man in scooping up the ball - brought the hosts some hope at 24-20, but it was short-lived.
A neatly worked move around the front of a lineout sent replacement hooker Dan Perrin over as the Saders secured the five points.
By Grant Ball