The Stormers survived a mighty scare from the Lions who were once again denied victory after losing 19-16 in Cape Town.
The Stormers survived an almighty scare from the Lions who were once again denied a deserved victory after going down 19-16 in a hard-fought Super Rugby encounter at Newlands on Saturday.
The home side were made to work hard for their win, as the resurgent Lions put in another impressive performance that – sadly for them – ended in defeat for the second time in a row.
John Mitchell's men have now run both of last year's finalists close, and took the match down to the wire only to lose by a whisker.
It took a huge defensive effort from the Stormers in injury time to keep the Lions out who had put together nearly 20 phases after working their way 80m up field to within a scoring position.
The Stormers knew giving away a penalty would result in a draw, and must be credited for their patience and composure with a near sold-out stadium screaming down their necks to tackle anything that moved.
They did, and forced the turnover that ended with full-back Conrad Jantjes kicking the ball into the stands. Relief for the Stormers, disappointment for the Lions.
The hosts got the first points on the board courtesy of a Gary van Aswegen penalty in the fourth minute of the match, but that was all we saw of them until the last ten minutes of the first half – instead, it was all the Lions.
Elton Jantjies would have been relieved after leveling the scores with a straight-forward penalty shot after missing four kicks at goal against the Bulls last weekend.
The Lions then hushed the Newlands crowd in the 15th minute following a break-out from hooker Bandise Maku along the touchline. Centre Waylon Murray was in support to take Maku's pop pass after hitting the deck, and was celebrating his second try in two weeks.
Jantjies couldn't add the extras from far out, and missed a sitter from bang in front a few minutes later. This, after making a brilliant break on halfway to take his team within inches of the Stormers' try-line. Jean de Villiers made a try-saving tackle on Derick Minnie, but gave away a penalty in the process. However, Jantjies threw away the easy three points.
The Lions pressed on, and the home side would have counted themselves lucky after the visitors failed to take advantage with Stormers hooker Deon Fourie in the bin.
As the tense encounter moved towards half-time, it was the Stormers who finished the better of the two after Van Aswegen belted over another two more penalties to give his side a 9-8 lead at the break.
The Stormers failed to take their momentum with them into the second half though, and were forced into silly handling errors as the Lions piled on the pressure with their physical approach coupled with some fantastic running with ball in hand.
The hosts got a bit better, but missed out on a try after laying siege to the opposition line for close to five minutes. From the subsequent clearance, the visitors won another penalty, this time converted by Jantjies to put his side back in front.
They went further ahead just before the three-quarter mark when the ball was spread left following a 5m scrum and Michael Killian passed inside for full-back Jaco Taute to score in the corner.
Jantjies missed for the third time on the night, while at the other end replacement fly-half Peter Grant was straight into the action by sending over a penalty to keep his side in the game.
With five minutes to go the Stormers completed the comeback when replacement Pieter Louw was on the end of a converted push-over try that saw last season's runners-up end victorious.
Try: P Louw
Pens: Van Aswegen 3, Grant
Tries: Murray, Taute
Pens: Jantjies 2
Stormers: 15 Conrad Jantjes, 14 Danie Poolman, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Jean de Villiers, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Gary van Aswegen, 9 Ricky Januarie, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Francois Louw, 6 Schalk Burger (captain), 5 Andries Bekker, 4 Rynhardt Elstadt, 3 Brok Harris, 2 Deon Fourie, 1 CJ van der Linde.
Replacements: 16 Siyabonga Ntubeni, 17 Frans Malherbe, 18 De Kock Steenkamp, 19 Pieter Louw, 20 Dewaldt Duvenage, 21 Peter Grant, 22 Juan de Jongh.
Lions: 15 Jaco Taute, 14 Lionel Mapoe, 13 Waylon Murray, 12 Doppies La Grange, 11 Michael Killian, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Josh Strauss, 6 Derick Minnie, 5 Franco van der Merwe (c), 4 George Earl, 3 Patrick Cilliers, 2 Bandise Maku, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg.
Replacements: 16 Martin Bezuidenhout, 17 Kevin Buys, 18 Wikus van Heerden, 19 Cobus Grobbelaar, 20 Rory Kockott, 21 Burton Francis, 22 James Kamana.
Referee: Stuart Dickinson (Australia)