Cape Town - The Highlanders on Saturday defeated the Lions 34-15 in their Super Rugby encounter at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin.
As it happened: Highlanders v Lions
The defending champions, who led 10-3 at the break, outscored their opponents by four tries to two in a high quality encounter.
The first half was a tightly-contested affair and things may have turned out differently if Lions wing Ruan Combrinck was not held up over the goalline in the 12th minute. Combrinck was over the line, but replays showed he was brilliantly held up by All Black centre Malakai Fekitoa.
Highlanders wing Matt Faddes went over in the 23rd minute which saw his side take a 10-point lead - a deficit the Lions could not recover from.
The Lions were only seven points down at the break, but the Kiwis came out roaring in the second period, scoring two quick tries inside four minutes after the restart - courtesy of fullback Ben Smith and a second form Faddes.
Fekitoa added a fourth try in the 55th minute and when flyhalf Lima Sopoaga kicked a 60th minute drop goal, the game was over as a contest, with the Highlanders leading 34-3.
Credit though needs to go to the Lions who fought back with two tries in the final quarter to ensure the Kiwis lost their try-scoring bonus-point.
The Lions nearly added a third try after the hooter, but lock Franco Mostert was held up over the line.
It was nevertheless a successful tour for the Lions, who claimed victories over the Sunwolves and Chiefs and will return to South Africa in confident mood.
They struggled at scrum time on Saturday and coach Johan Ackermann will be sure to work on that ahead of next Saturday’s South African derby against the Cheetahs in Johannesburg.
In their next assignment, the Highlanders will duel the Waratahs in Sydney next Friday.
Tries: Matt Faddes (2), Ben Smith, Malakai Fekitoa
Conversions: Lima Sopoaga (4)
Drop goal: Sopoaga
Try: Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Ruan Ackermann
Conversion: Elton Jantjies
15 Ben Smith (captain), 14 Matt Faddes, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Rob Thompson, 11 Patrick Osborne, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Liam Squire, 7 Dan Pryor, 6 Elliot Dixon, 5 Joe Wheeler, 4 Alex Ainley, 3 Siosiua Halanukonuka, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Brendon Edmonds.
Substitutes: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Daniel Lienert-Brown, 18 Ross Geldenhuys, 19 Gareth Evans, 20 Shane Christie, 21 Josh Renton, 22 Hayden Parker, 23 Jason Emery
15 Jaco Van Der Walt, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 12 Howard Mnisi, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley (captain), 7 Warwick Tecklenberg, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Robbie Coetzee, 1 Jacques van Rooyen
Substitutes: 16 Armand Van Der Merwe, 17 Corne Fourie, 18 Julian Redelinghuys, 19 Robert Kruger, 20 Ruan Ackermann, 21 Dillon Smit, 22 Jacques Nel, 23 Andries Coetzee