Two tries in three second-half minutes secured a deserved 14-8 Super Rugby victory for the Crusaders over the Lions at Ellis Park on Saturday, compounding the woes for the home side who slipped to a third defeat of the season.
Despite their poor form, the Lions remain top of the South African Conference with 20 points from seven matches, seven more than the second-placed Stormers. The victory moves the Crusdaders joint-top of the New Zealand pool with 19 points from six games, though they have played one game more than the table-topping Hurricanes.
Wing Madosh Tambwe got the only try of the game for the Lions in the first half, while lock Sam Whitelock and centre jack Goodhue crossed to seal the victory for the visitors.
The Crusaders dominated possession and territory, but trailed 5-0 at the break as Tambwe scored the only points in the opening period having been set free by hooker Malcolm Marx. The Crusaders were twice denied tries of their own, and on both occasions it was forward passes from flyhalf Mitch Hunt to wing George Bridge that saw the play pulled back and the scores chalked off.
The Crusaders continued to have the better of the play in the opening 10 minutes of the second half and were finally rewarded when Whitelock barged over from close range and Hunt converted to give the visitors the lead.
And three minutes later they doubled that advantage as substitute wing Manasa Mataele broke through some limp tackles and offloaded to Goodhue to cross over.
Mataele was almost the architect of another score when he danced down the touchline and set David Havili free to score, but replays showed he had put a foot in touch.
The Lions began to see more of the ball in the final 10 minutes as the visitors tired, and having earlier turned down three points in search of the try, finally converted a penalty through Elton Jantjies to close the gap to six points. They went on the attack from the kick-off, but some excellent defence from the Crusaders saw them turn the ball over and hold on for the win.
The Lions are next in action at home to the Stormers on Saturday, while the Crusaders now fly on to Buenos Aires to meet the Jaguares.