The Lions made their own luck and got some as well but on the whole deserved the narrow 26-19 win against the Kings in Port Elizabeth.
The fist of two promotion/relegation matches showed how little there is between these two sides and whoever plays in next year’s Super Rugby competition could be in for a demanding six months.
The two sides each scored two tries, but the Lions relied on a 50 metre intercept and a controversial second half try. Their play deserved a better return as they were more effective at the breakdown and created more on attack.
I had the Lions to win and Elton Jantjies to be decisive in the win. On both counts this transpired, which makes for a decent start to the weekend.
The Kings have shown tremendous tenacity all season and the Lions were not spared any physicality but the hosts were often too frantic and ill-disciplined.
They relied on passion, whereas the Lions always seemed to have the greater composure.
Nearly 30 000 attended the game and with better decision-making and a bit of luck the Kings could have snatched a draw in the last attack of the game.
But typical of the night, the Lions won the contest at the breakdown, turned over the ball, won the scrum feed and booted the ball into touch for the win.
Kings – Tries: Marcello Sampson, Steven Sykes. Penalties: Demetri Catrakilis (3).
Lions – Tries: Stokkies Hanekom (2). Conversions: Elton Jantjies (2). Penalties: Jantjies (4).
Kings – 15 SP Marais, 14 Marcello Sampson, 13 Ronnie Cooke, 12 Shane Gates, 11 Hadleigh Parkes, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Jacques Engelbrecht, 7 Wimpie van der Walt, 6 Cornell du Preez, 5 David Bulbring, 4 Darron Nell (c), 3 Kevin Buys, 2 Bandise Maku, 1 Schalk Ferreira.
Subs: 16 Grant Kemp, 17 Hannes Franklin, 18 Steven Sykes, 19 Devin Oosthuizen, 20 Nicolas Vergallo, 21 George Whitehead, 22 Waylon Murray.
Lions – 15 Ruan Combrinck, 14 Deon van Rensburg, 13 Stokkies Hanekom, 12 Dylan des Fountain, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Vian van der Watt, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Derick Minnie, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Hendrik Roodt, 3 Julian Redelinghuys, 2 Martin Bezuidenhout, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg (c).
Subs: 16 Robbie Coetzee, 17 Ruan Dreyer, 18 Willie Britz, 19 Warwick Tecklenburg, 20 Ross Kemp 21 Marnitz Boshoff, 22 Chrysander Botha.