The Johannesburgers racked up eight tries – two of which were penalty tries – to four by Eastern Province, who found themselves in the challenging predicament of playing with 14 men from the second minute and 13 men for the last 28 minutes of the match.
Eastern Province lock Arnold Kleyn was shown a red card in the second minute for a dangerous tackle, and matters got worse midway through the third quarter after CJ Velleman (flank) was shown his second yellow card of the match, which saw him receiving his marching orders.
The teams took several minutes to find their rhythm with handling errors, ill-discipline and injuries testing them early on.
The Lions had the first say as they were awarded a penalty try in the 10th minute after Eastern Province were pinned for collapsing a maul, with the score being awarded minutes after the Johannesburgers’ lost Dillon Smit (scrumhalf) to a yellow card after stamping on an opposition player’s hand in a ruck.
The first penalty try came at a further cost for the home side as Velleman received a yellow card, which reduced them to 13 men.
The hosts hit back with a smart try by Christopher Hollis (wing), who took a quick lineout and dashed down the line as he caught the Lions defence off-guard, and the successful conversion leveled the scores.
The visitors found their form soon after with Dameon Venter (hooker) scoring a try from a powerful rolling maul in the 22nd minute to double their score, but this was short-lived as the Elephants’ Zingisa April (No 8) touched down after receiving the ball out wide from a ruck.
The Lions, however, added another try eight minutes before the break after replacement back Luke Rossouw showed his skill by breaking through two tackles to dive over. This handed them a 21-12 lead going into the break.
The Gauteng outfit built on their lead three minutes after play resumed with former Junior Springbok prop Nathan McBeth crashing over from a rolling maul to extend their lead.
Eastern Province were dealt a heavy blow several minutes later as Velleman received his second yellow card of the match following a series of penalties conceded close to the tryline, and this offence left the team with the trying task of having to play with 13 men for the last 28 minutes.
The Lions were awarded their second penalty try soon after, which pushed their lead to 11 points, but they were soon reduced to 14 men after Mark Snyman (flanker) received a yellow card following repeated infringements by the team following a determined fightback by Eastern Province.
The home team’s determined efforts finally paid off in the final quarter as Robin Stevens (replacement hooker) snatched the ball out of the air to score, with his captain Courtney Winnaar following minutes later, which saw them trail 33-24 with six minutes to play.
The Lions, however, wrapped up the victory with a flourish, touching down three times in the last five minutes as former SA U20 flanker Sibusiso Sangweni, Banele Mthenjane (prop) and Ngia Selengbe (wing) all crossed the chalk, which sealed a rewarding 54-24 victory.
Eastern Province 24 (12) – Tries: Christopher Hollis, Zingisa April, Robin Stevens, Courtney Winnaar. Conversions: Karlo Aspeling (2).
Lions 54 (21) – Tries: Penalty Try (2), Dameon Venter, Luke Rossouw, Nathan McBeth, Sibusiso Sangweni, Banele Mthenjane, Ngia Selengbe. Conversions: Tiaan Swanepoel (2), Jordan Hendrikse (2).