In a Super 14 match at Coca-Cola Park that bordered on the bizarre, the Lions came back from a 72-37 deficit to grab a second bonus point at the end of an 18-try match against the Chiefs, who held on to win 72-65.
With both sides scoring nine tries, the star of the night was 19-year-old Wandile Mjekevu, playing his second match at this level, who scored a hat-trick.
For at least two of the tries he had to do the hard work — and full marks go to Lions coach Dick Muir and his staff for recognising the potential of the youngster who turned 19 only six weeks ago.
Richard Kahui scored a hat-trick in a match where tackling — at times — was non-existent.
The Lions were on occasion very good in the first half, and an upset seemed on the cards. But then their defence let them down and two scores just before and after the break put the Chiefs in command.
The Chiefs, off the very first stanza of play, created an overlap, first on the left and then on the right.
They were stopped in the process of going over the line, but from the ensuing ruck penalty the Chiefs again changed direction before centre Callum Bruce went over with less than two minutes on the clock. With Stephen Donald converting from near the touchline, the Lions had a nightmare start to the game (7-0).
Less than six minutes later Earl Rose made it 7-3 with a penalty after the Lions applied some pressure, but soon after a stray Lions elbow saw Donald restore the seven-point lead (10-3).
Sione Luaki was sent to the sin bin two minutes later; Rose converted the penalty and at 10-6 the Lions, who had played some good rugby, were back in the game.
A good Chiefs grubber forced Tonderai Chavanga to carry over and Donald converted as Kahui scored the easiest of tries.
At 17-6, the Chiefs seemed out of sight, but from a penalty after the restart, JP Joubert took a quick one, and Mjekevu, using his pace as the defence hesitated for an overlap pass, scored his first try at this level (17-11) before the Chiefs lost Aled de Malmanche to a yellow card.
The Lions didn’t let up and after 23 minutes follow-up work from American Eagles captain Todd Clever, he collected a pop-pass to score.
Clever put the Lions on the attack as he intercepted on his 22 after the restart, and with the hosts exerting sustained pressure, Carlos Spencer scored after 30 minutes for Rose to convert (25-17).
Donald closed the gap slightly when he slotted a penalty from right in front (25-20).
The Lions were denied a half-time lead when flyhalf Donald exploited some poor defence to score and convert and make it 27-25 to the Chiefs at the break.
They repeated the dose, again faced with missed first-time tackles, and with Liam Messam’s try converted it became a rather flattering 34-25 to the visitors.
With Donald slotting a penalty six minutes after the break to make it 37-25, Deon van Rensburg then surrendered possession when held for Kahui to run 55 metres for his second try.
He got his hat-trick 15 minutes in to the second half when the Lions tried to run from their own line and he picked up a desperate pass off Jonathan Mokuena to jog through (51-25).
Junior Poluleuligaga pushed them further ahead (58-25), and with more than the fourth quarter remaining, Sitiveni Sivivatu round off another move marked by poor defence, and Donald made it 65-25.
The 100-point mark was broached after a good straight-running converted try by Doppies la Grange and Tonderai Chavanga made it 65-37 after a good passage of Lions’ play.
Then All Blacks scrumhalf Brendan Leonard scored again for the Chiefs and with Donald on target, it was 72-37 with 10 minutes remaining.
The 14th try of the match was scored when Mjekevu jinxed his way through for a converted try (72-44).
Then the hosts drove over for captain Cobus Grobelaar. With the conversion again good, the Lions had come back to within one try of a seven-point bonus-point loss with three minutes remaining.
Sustained pressure and some ill-discipline saw Jacques Lombard go over. Burton Francis converted, and at 72-65, the Lions had nine tries
and two bonus points. – Sapa