The Chiefs have narrowly missed out on victory for the second week in a row, losing a controversial nail biter to the Lions 36-32.
A crowd of over 15,000 at FMG Stadium Waikato in Hamilton willed their team on, but a high penalty count and superior Lions physicality across saw the Chiefs constantly chasing the game.
Dave Rennie’s men tried until the final siren, where a controversial penalty by referee Andrew Lees, saw the Lions escape with the win after the Chiefs stormed back into the game in the second half.
It was the second straight win for the Lions, and the second week in a row that the Chiefs have struggled in the set piece and at scrum time.
The full story:
The Chiefs took the early lead thanks to the boot of Damian McKenzie, but the Lions answered back when Elton Jantjies landed a kick of his own.
Jantjies put the Lions in front with his second three thanks to the Chiefs being offside in the ruck.
Loose-forward Tom Sanders scored his first try in Super Rugby to put the Chiefs back in the lead 8-6.
The try was thanks large in part to a dashing run down field by Seta Taminavalu, the Chiefs midfielder powerfully fending off Lions defenders to create space.
Persistent possession from turnover ball at the breakdown saw the Lions begin to hold the Chiefs in their red zone. The pressure eventually led to a try as the long period of possession paid off.
Lions hooker Malcolm Marx scored to put the Lions back in front.
Jantjies extended the Lions lead to 16-8 as the penalty count mounted considerably against the Chiefs, and the young Lions first-five landed yet another three moments later, making it 19-8.
McKenzie gave the Chiefs some respite, landing a penalty on the halftime siren to head into the sheds trailing 19-11.
Brodie Retallick departed early in the second half with a niggle to his left shoulder.
The Lions pushed further into the lead when the speed of winger Courtnal Skosan proved to be too much for the Chiefs defense, stepping through two defenders and scoring in the corner for the Lions second try.
Trailing 24-11, Dave Rennie began ringing the changes in the hopes of providing a little impact off the bench in a game where the Chiefs were finding it difficult to get anything going on offense.
McKenzie scored after receiving the ball in space, notching a crucial five-pointer to bring the Chiefs closer.
Stunning footwork from James Lowe fooled the Lions defense, and in one of the best tries of the season so far, the Chiefs hit back into the lead 25-24 in a game that had suddenly turned into a nail biter.
Warren Whitely smashed through as the Lions surged again, scoring to put his side back in front, the score 31-25 after Jantjies converted.
Sideline referee’s missed a clear foot on the line as the Lions took possession from broken play, and amongst the chaos, Lions backs found themselves with an overlap.
Ruan Combrinck scored the Lions fourth try, increasing the lead past 10-points with the last part of the match remaining.
With no choice but to go onto full attack, the Chiefs turned down an easy three points, choosing to opt for an attacking lineout close to the try line, and the gamble paid off.
Brad Weber swiped the ball from the back of the ruck and scored a crucial try for the Chiefs. McKenzie converted, but the Chiefs were still behind by four points with the score now 36-32.
Referee Andrew Lees had the final say in the match, penalising the Chiefs with attacking ball on the five-metre line, despite replays suggesting that the Lions forward pack had illegally brought down the rolling maul on the last play of the game.
The Lions won 36-32 and secured their second win on the trot.
(Tom Sanders, James Lowe, Brad Weber, Damian McKenzie 1 try, 2 pen, 4 con)
( Malcom Marx, Courtnal Skosan, Warren Whitely, Ruan Combrink, Elton Jantjies 4 pen, 2 con)