By Nick Said
CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - Flanker Jaco Kriel scored a controversial try just before halftime to lead the Lions to a 29-16 bonus-point victory over the previously unbeaten Stormers in their Super Rugby clash at Newlands on Saturday.
Kriel looked to have been held up in the tackle as he crossed the tryline, but Television Match Official Shaun Veldsman awarded the score, to go with tries from hooker Malcolm Marx, centre Harold Vorster and wing Sylvian Mahuza.
It was a deserved victory for last year’s beaten finalists, their first ever in a Super Rugby game at Newlands, as they won the physical battles, were dominant in the scrum and defended with great heart.
The Stormers’ only try came via in-form wing Dillyn Leyds as they slipped to a first defeat in seven games this season and relinquished top spot in the South African Group to their visitors.
The Lions made the perfect start when Marx barged over from a driving maul inside four minutes, but suffered a set-back shortly afterwards when centre Rohan Janse van Rensburg left the field with a knee injury.
The home side took the lead as Leyds completed a fine move that had started in their own half, but the Lions regained the advantage when Vorster, on as a substitute for Janse van Rensburg, picked a hole in the Stormers backline to score.
The advantage swung again when Kriel was sent to the sin-bin after 25 minutes for a dangerous tackle on Du Preez, who kicked a second penalty to edge the home side ahead again.
Elton Jantjies swung the score back in his side’s favour before a moment of controversy tightened their grip.
Kriel had only been back on the pitch for a couple of minutes when he crossed the line, but looked to be held up.
Referee Jaco Peyper asked Veldsman to assist, saying he could see no clear evidence of the ball having been grounded.
TV replays suggested the same, but Veldsman claimed he could see “compelling evidence” that the ball had touched the ground and awarded the try as the Lions led 22-13 at halftime.
There was no score in the first 30 minutes of the second half as the Stormers lacked ideas in the face of some staunch Lions defence.
Fullback SP Marais closed the gap for the home side with a penalty, but two minutes later the Lions sealed the win as substitute Mahuza scored in the corner.
(Reporting By Nick Said; Editing by Toby Davis)