Wing Ruan Combrinck kicked a late 60-metre penalty to help the Lions clinch a Super Rugby semi-final spot with a thrilling 23-21 victory over a spirited Sharks outfit at Ellis Park in Johannesburg on Saturday.
The Sharks were leading the Lions 21-20 with four minutes to play, but Combrinck got a chance to win the match after Sharks wing Lwazi Mvovo was pinned for offside about five metres in the home side's half.
The Springbok then stepped up and kicked a monster penalty -- about 60 metres on the angle, which only just floated over the crossbar -- to earn the Lions a second consecutive semi-final berth.
The Sharks, though, left everything on the pitch in a physical encounter. They got in between the Lions with their line speed on defence, and their scrum dominated throughout the match. They led 11-3 at the break, as they forced the Lions into mistake after mistake.
But, in the end, the Lions prevailed to set up a semi-final encounter against the Hurricanes in a repeat of last year's final. However, the South African side will have to lift their game if they are to set up a final at Ellis Park in a fortnight.
The Lions took a 3-0 lead in the 10th minute after Elton Jantjies slotted a penalty. But the Springbok flyhalf was also guilty of missing a plethora of kicks at goal, which, in the end, almost cost his team victory.
The Sharks put a lot of pressure on the Lions on defence, and forced the home team into mistakes. The Sharks profited from one of those mistakes in the 11th minute when they intercepted a Lions ball following a quick lineout. They managed to get the ball through the hands, before Kobus van Wyk crossed over for the try.
Young flyhalf Curwin Bosch then extended the Sharks' lead with a drop goal six minutes later. Bosch then slotted another penalty five minutes before the break to give the Sharks a shock halftime lead.
Bosch added another penalty shortly after the break, but the game soon turned on its head when the Sharks lost their lock Stephan Lewies to a yellow card in the 46th minute of clash.
The Lions stepped up their intensity and made the Sharks pay with two tries while Lewies was in the cooler.
The Lions got a scrum close to the Sharks' line, which they dominated. Following a few phases of relentless pressure, lock Franco Mostert went over to score in the 48th minute.
The Lions scored another two tries through captain Jaco Kriel and centre Lionel Mapoe in the 52nd and the 60th minutes respectively to take the lead back the lead.
However, the Sharks did not lie down, and scored a vital try via Daniel du Preez in the 65th minute to retake the lead.
Bosch had two drop goal attempts in the last 10 minutes from long range, which went under the crossbar, as the Sharks tried to get out of penalty range of the Lions.
However, after Mvovo was blown up for offside, Combrinck stepped up to kick a long range penalty to keep the Lions' Super Rugby title hopes alive.