Johannesburg - The Lions survived a brave fight back from the Cheetahs to secure a 17-10 victory in their Absa Currie Cup match in Johannesburg on Saturday.
The men from Bloemfontein were trailing 17-3 with less than 15 minutes remaining in the match to come within inches of levelling the scores in the final minutes of the match.
Both sides only managed to score one try in the tensely contested catfight and the difference proved to be the accuracy of their respective goal kickers.
For the Lions, flyhalf Elton Jantjies not only enjoyed a far more consistent performance when kicking at goal, his general play was of impeccable standard while he also delivered a stand-out performance in defence.
Cheetahs pivot Sias Ebersohn received far less front foot ball and his goal-kicking was not as impressive as it usually is.
With the victory, the Lions retained their status as the only unbeaten side in the competition and after five rounds they are still sitting comfortably at the top of the log.
The Johannesburg squad last started the Currie Cup competition with five victories in a row in the 1997 season.
The Cheetahs' best chance of the first half came just seconds after the start, when eighthman Ashley Johnson nearly snatched the ball from unsuspecting Lions defenders inside their own in-goal area.
The Lions showed good structure in defence, although they were very fortunate to only concede three points after the match got underway in such frantic fashion.
Ebersohn's first shot at goal was a good one, but it took the men from Johannesburg less than three minutes to level the scores with an equally good conversion by Jantjies.
With formalities a thing of the past, the Lions started marching closer to the Cheetahs territory.
Getting over the advantage line was, however, not an easy task and the rate of turnovers were very high with Cheetahs prop Coenie Oosthuizen in impressive form at the tackle area.
The physicality the sides brought to the match was as intense as most pundits predicted it would be.
Some of the clashes Johnson and Lions skipper Joshua Strauss were involved in would have been appreciated at Test level.
Although the Cheetahs defended extremely well, it was the Lions who provided most of the entertainment with their explosive backline runners.
The decision to shift Lionel Mapoe from wing to centre gave the Johannesburg side a new dimension on attack while Jaco Taute impressed in his return to the starting line-up.
It took the home side 27 minutes to score the first try of the night through wing Michael Killian who managed to finish in style.
The winger ran onto a pass from Taute, in a backline move that had been drilled-in on the training field.
Costly handling errors prevented the Cheetahs from building momentum while the fact that Ebersohn missed penalties either side of the break did not help their cause either.
Eventually fullback Riaan Smit was asked to take over the kicking duties, but he too botched up what should have been three easy points.
In the meantime the Lions kept building on the 8-3 lead they had at half-time and with 15 minutes left to play, they were ahead 17-3.
Jantjies and scrumhalf Michael Bondesio controlled the game well, but the Free State squad never gave up and were eventually rewarded with a try by replacement Tewis de Bruyn in the 72nd minute.
Then came the late surge, but the drama did not end there as the television match official’s services were called in.
Oosthuizen's drive over the line was held-up which also signalled the end of the Cheetahs' chance of levelling the scores.
Lions 17 (8): Try: Michael Killian. Penalties: Jantjies (4).
Cheetahs 10 (3): Try: Tewis de Bruyn. Conversion: Riaan Smit. Penalty: Sias Ebersohn.