July 5, 2014
The Lions picked up their sixth win in 2014 with a resounding second-half performance to defeat the Rebels 34-17 at Ellis Park.
The visitors at times looked like they still had one foot on the airplane that brought them to Johannesburg.
It marked a record sixth Super Rugby win at Ellis Park for the pride of Jo'burg and, as was always going to be the case between two sides only playing for pride, there was more than enough running for the fans who braved the cold.
The Lions couldn't really have asked for a better start to proceedings as they dominated from the kick-off, exerting tremendous pressure on their opponents.
It took but a few exchanges for Anthony Volmink to barge over the line while the Rebels were finding their feet.
In a rare sight for local supporters flyhalf Marnitz Boshoff failed to nail the conversion, but he made up for the mistake when he pumped over a long-range penalty to give his side a 8-0 lead.
Although they initially struggled to contend with the constant pressure they were placed under by Boshoff, who continued to search up the corners with his boot, the visitors did extremely well to counter the rolling mauls and would pose a real threat in that same department later on.
Having battled their way out of the home side's half with an unexpected a multi-phased move, the Rebels enjoyed their first real territorial advantage and came within inches of their first try.
Scrum-half Luke Burgess pierced the Lions line with Jack Debreczeni snapping up his grubber kick before off-loading to Scott Higginbotham who was eventually denied after the TMO found that he had a foot in touch.
The scramble defence of the Lions proved crucial at this stage and would later be one of the reasons the Rebels didn't manage to dictate proceedings as much as they could have.
In a rare moment of tactical splendour, a piercing kick by Boshoff brought his side within inches of the line but centre Stokkies Hanekom was unable to hold on to the ball as he dived over.
From that let-off some space was found in a scattered Lions defence and, when the final pass stuck for the first time for the visitors after good work from Burgess and Higginbotham, Tom English managed to reward his side with their first try of the night.
Debreczeni did exceptionally well to add the extras from out wide. His next shot at goal proved to be pretty elementary in its execution.
Having sustained pressure inside the Lions 22, Debreczeni missed a penalty that would have ensured his side take the lead with 10 minutes remaining in the half. Instead Boshoff had the luxury of kicking for goal and made it 11-7.
Still the Rebels dominated through solid runs by Higginbotham, Mitch Inman and the interlinking Burgess but were unable to find a gap through the Lions defence that was looking more fragile as the match progressed.
Leading 14-10 at the break a vastly improved defensive effort would have been a top priority in the second stanza.
The chance to extend his team's lead was presented to Boshoff, but he missed from 50 metres out.
As the Lions tried to surge their way up field with the boot, the Rebels weren't as eager to get rid of the ball and would take the lead through a perfectly executed line-out drive which saw Colby Fainga'a emerge as the try scorer from the bottom of the pile.
It then took something spectacular from Johan Ackermann's men to get their noses back in front.
Regaining possession just outside their own 22 the Lions played with the attacking flair they are known for and - following splendid offloads by the likes of Lionel Mapoe and Boshoff - flanker Warwick Tecklenburg finished the team try which effectively shut the visitors out.
Replacement hooker Armand van der Merwe came close to scoring a 70-metre intercept try but although he was denied, Boshoff continued to build on his side's new lead as he nailed two penalties in quick succession.
In a fairytale finish, the best player in Johannesburg - Warren Whiteley - dotted down to put any form of comeback out of mind for the men from Melbourne.