Potchefstroom - Defending Vodacom Cup champions Golden Lions had to rely on a late penalty kick from Guy Cronje before clinching an 18-16 win over a valiant Leopards outfit in their North Section match at Profert Olen Park in Potchefstroom on Friday.
The Lions trailed on the scoreboard from as early as the seventh minute but replacement scrumhalf Guy Cronje snatched the victory with a 78th minute penalty to deny the hosts a win.
The Leopards took a 6-0 lead after 16 minutes thanks to a penalty from flyhalf Gerhard Nortier and a massive 55-metre penalty kick from fullback SW Oosthuizen.
The home team then extended their lead, in the 19th minute, when Oosthuizen popped up in the backline before off-loading to wing Rowayne Beukman, who sprinted clear from 35 metres out for a converted try as the hosts eased to a 13-0 lead.
The Lions had their opportunities to score in the first half but they were let down by handling errors at crucial times, while flyhalf Willie du Plessis missed two early penalty attempts.
However, with the half-time hooter having already sounded, Du Plessis made amends for his earlier misses with a penalty as the hosts went to the break leading 13-3.
The Lions dominated possession and territory at the start of the second half but their inability to finish cost them once again when the Leopards stretched their lead with a 53rd minute penalty from Nortier.
But the Lions had the upper hand in the forward exchanges and they finally breached the hosts' defence when flank Thabo Mabuza was mauled over for an unconverted try in the 59th minute.
Leopards lock Brendon Snyman was yellow-carded for collapsing a maul in the 63rd minute and the Lions took almost immediate advantage when Mabuza muscled his way over from close range for his second try of the match before Cronje stepped up to seal the win.
Golden Lions (18): Tries: Thabo Mabuza (2). Conversion: Guy Cronje. Penalties: Willie du Plessis, Cronje.
Leopards (16): Try: Rowayne Beukman. Conversion: Gerhard Nortier. Penalties: Nortier (2), SW Oosthuizen.