News24 reports the Lions scored 10 unanswered points to pip the Cheetahs 23-22 in an all-South Africa finale to the first round of the Super 14 on Saturday.
In the closest southern hemisphere inter-provincial championship game of the weekend, the Lions turned a 22-13 deficit into a victory thanks to a Doppies la Grange try converted by Earl Rose, who also kicked the crucial penalty.
There were just six minutes left in Bloemfontein when replacement flyhalf Rose slotted a close-range penalty and he almost succeeded with a cheeky long-range drop goal attempt soon after.
Success was particularly sweet for the Johannesburg-based Lions as it was their first over the Cheetahs in the Super 14 and it also avenged a two-point loss to the same team in the Currie Cup final last year.
The close scoreline came as no surprise as there was little between the teams who adapted well to the new laws and produced an often lively match in perfect conditions at one of the 2010 Soccer World Cup venues.
Ironically, the Cheetahs held the Lions scoreless and maintained their nine-point advantage while hooker Adriaan Strauss was in the ‘sin bin’ before conceding 10 points with a full strength side.
And the home team even crossed the tryline more often with wing Eddie Fredericks, No 8 Duane Vermeulen and lock Barend Pieterse scoring while flank Franco van der Merwe and centre La Grange went over for the Lions.
But the Lions had the vital edge in goal kicking with flyhalf Louis Strydom landing two penalties and a conversion while missing one penalty attempt and Rose succeeded with both kicks.
Cheetahs flyhalf Jacques-Louis Potgieter, stepping into the boots of retired goal kicking legend Willem de Waal for the first time, missed a difficult conversion before fluffing a close-range penalty early on.
Potgieter cut a bloodied figure after an early collision required stitches and he returned heavily bandaged as the Cheetahs led for most of the match without ever looking certain winners.
The Cheetahs did their best close to half-time as they turned a 10-5 deficit into a 19-13 half-time lead thanks to a Vermeulen burst between two tacklers and a soft try by Pieterse, who won a lineout and galloped over unopposed.
La Grange triggered the late comeback on 64 minutes by taking a long pass and diving over in the corner and Rose exhibited steely nerves to convert from the touchline before landing a simple penalty from in front of the posts.
The Cheetahs host the Western Force of Australia next Friday at the same venue and the Lions return home to Ellis Park for a clash with the Blues of New Zealand the following evening.Tweet