Port Elizabeth - Inexperience and lack of depth proved to be the downfall of the Southern Kings against a second-string Lions side at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth on Friday.
Despite showing signs of a comeback in the early stages of the second half, it was not enough for the Kings to emulate their shock win over the Blue Bulls a fortnight ago.
Simple mistakes, akin to the ones made in last week's defeat to the Cheetahs, came back to bite Alan Solomons' troops, as the Lions' clinical display took advantage of the errors both in open play and set-pieces.
The Lions showed made their mark early when the home side's defence was caught napping - allowing three soft tries from Lions centre Joubert Engelbrecht and winger Tonderai Chavanga who scored within two minutes of each other, with centre Jannie Boshoff scoring the third and final try of the first half.
The Kings made a slow comeback with a Jaco van Schalkwyk penalty, and looked more confident in the last 15 minutes - pushing forward and occupying the opposition territory more often.
They were rewarded with eight minutes before the half-time whistle when loosehead prop Ronnie Uys barged over as the Lions led 22-10 at the break.
Kings' coach Alan Solomons must have hit a nerve as his troops came back firing in the second stanza.
They pushed forward and kept the visitors under pressure and were rewarded with a blistering try by massive winger Paul Perez. He was fed by scrumhalf Jacques Coetzee after a scrum five metres from the Lions tryline.
The Samoan winger barged through the Lions defence to score close to the goalposts. Second half substitute flyhalf Monty Dumond converted.
Shortly after coming onto the field, Boetie Brits put his name on the scorers list, and Dumond scored an almost impossible conversion from the corner to put the Kings in the lead for the first and only time in the match (24-22).
Perez gave his side a temporary get-out-of-jail card a few moments later when he stopped towering Lions' lock David Bulbring on the Kings' line, only to sustain an ankle injury in the process which ruled him out for the remainder of the game.
With 13 minutes to go, former Blitzbokke captain Jonathan Mokuena managed to squeeze his way through the Kings defence following a scrum on their five metre line, to give the Lions the lead.
Cronje sealed the game for the Lions when he converted a penalty a minute before the final whistle, taking the score to 30-24.
The gallant performance by the Kings in the late stages may have left them on the losing side but at least they went down with a fight.
Their Vodacom Cup campaign kicks off against Namibia in Port Elizabeth on February 25.
Scorers: Kings 24 (10): Tries: Ronnie Uys, Paul Perez, Boetie Brits. Conversions: Jaco van Schalkwyk, Monty Dumond (2). Penalties: Van Schalkwyk.
Lions: 30 (22): Tries: Joubert Engelbrecht, Tonderai Chavanga, Jannie Boshoff, Jonathan Mokuena. Conversions: Hein Cronje (2). Penalty: JP Joubert, Cronje.