The Golden Lions strengthened their position at the top of the standings after claiming a 36-28 victory over the Blue Bulls in Pretoria on Saturday.
A dominant first-half display, when they raced into a 30-7 lead at half-time, set up this victory for the Lions although the Bulls launched a brave fightback after the break and outscored their visitors by four tries to three.
The Bulls were always playing catch-up to try and stay in the contest and did to their credit show some good signs. However, their huge deficit at the interval and a pack that did not match their opponents at scrum time proved their undoing on several occasions.
It took the Lions just three minutes to treat the crowd to more of the same superb attacking rugby which we've seen from them throughout the season.
After setting up several phases inside the Bulls' 22, the ball came out to Marnitz Boshoff who delivered a perfectly-weighted cross-field kick which Courtnall Skosan gathered before crossing over for the opening try.
Ten minutes later, Boshoff slotted a penalty and he then added a drop-goal which meant his side were in control of proceedings at 13-0 after the opening quarter.
Five minutes later, Howard Mnisi secured a turnover inside the Bulls' 22 and threw an inside pass to Franco Mostert who crashed over for his side's second five-pointer.
The home side tried their best to strike back but things went from bad to worse in the 34th minute when Ruan Combrinck intercepted a wayward pass from Dries Swanepoel, close to the Blue Bulls' ten-metre line, and raced away before dotting down under the posts.
The Bulls struck back shortly before the break when Jamba Ulengo crossed in the left-hand corner for their opening try.
That score seemed to revitalise the hosts and they came out stronger after the restart. Boshoff extended the Lions' lead, via the kicking tee in the 51st minute but for the next 20 minutes it was the Bulls who were in charge as they tried to haul in their visitors.
Arno Botha got over the whitewash from close quarters in the 57th minute and shortly afterwards Deon Stegmann did the same when his momentum took him over the line despite desperate tackles from three defenders.
When Ulengo dived onto the ball in the 68th minute, after he and Warrick Gelant showed deft football skills to dribble it over the try-line, the Bulls faithful were in raptures as Tian Schoeman's conversion meant they were now just five points adrift of the lead.
The final ten minutes proved frantic as both sides tried to secure the result but it was the Lions who sealed the win in the 77th minute when Boshoff added his fourth penalty when Lappies Labuschagne was penalised for not releasing a tackled player.
The result means the Golden Lions are the only unbeaten side left in the competition and they are now four points clear of the Blue Bulls at the top of the table.
For Blue Bulls:
Tries: Ulengo 2, Stegmann, Botha
Cons: Schoeman 4
For Golden Lions:
Tries: Skosan, Mostert, Combrinck
Cons: Boshoff 3
Pens: Boshoff 4
Drop goal: Boshoff
Blue Bulls: 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Dries Swanepoel, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Jamba Ulengo, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Arno Botha, 7 Lappies Labuschagne (c), 6 Roelof Smit, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Jacques du Plessis, 3 Marcel van der Merwe, 2 Bandise Maku, 1 Dean Greyling.
Replacements: 16 Jaco Visagie, 17 Werner Kruger, 18 RG Snyman, 19 Deon Stegmann, 20 Ivan van Zyl, 21 Louis Fouché, 22 Burger Odendaal.
Golden Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Stokkies Hanekom, 12 Howard Mnisi, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Marnitz Boshoff, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Fabian Booysen, 7 Stephan de Witt, 6 Jaco Kriel (c), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Martin Muller, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Robbie Coetzee, 1 Jacques van Rooyen.
Replacements: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Julian Redelinghuys, 18 MB Lusaseni, 19 Kwagga Smith, 20 Jaco van der Walt, 21 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 22 Sampie Mastriet.
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen