It took them some time to get going, but the Stormers grew stronger as the match progressed and eventually secured a solid enough 23-17 Super Rugby Unlocked win against the Lions at Newlands on Saturday night.
For the majority of the match, it looked as if the Lions would have enough to get the job done and land their first win of the competition.
Instead, they lost their intensity and concentration during a crucial 10-minute period in the second half where the Stormers capitalised an ultimately snatched the win.
Comfortably outplayed when the sides met three weekends ago in the pre-season Super Fan Saturday event, it was the Lions this time who started brightest.
From the early stages and then for the majority of the half, it was the men from Johannesburg who were more precise in their execution with an intensity evident on defence and attack.
Springbok flyhalf Elton Jantjies gave the visitors the lead with a penalty on seven minutes, but Jaco Kriel’s infringement on the ground directly after the restart around Stormers pivot Damian Willemse to level matters at 3-3.
The big moment in the opening period came with the Lions on the back foot after Jantjies had been hit hard by a flying Sergeal Petersen.
Yet, with seemingly nothing on, the Lions launched s counter-attack from deep in their own territory with Jantjies again influential as linked up with Kriel before releasing the perfect inside pass to Rabz Maxwane, who finished off a superb break down the left.
Jantjies converted and the Lions had a deserved 10-3 lead.
Willemse then missed a relatively routine shot at goal, but the Stormers would receive a massive injection of fortune shortly afterwards that ultimately kept them in the game.
The Lions, on the front foot, made another enterprising break and looked to have scored their second when Kriel released Burger Odendaal down the right flank, who dotted down under the posts.
Replays revealed, however, that Kriel’s pass had gone forward and the Stormers survived.
A Willemse penalty then narrowed the gap to 10-6 at half-time when it was revealed that Petersen had suffered a serious quad injury and would not be returning for the second period.
His withdrawal saw Tim Swiel join the fray at flyhalf, Willemse move to fullback and Warrick Gelant shift over to Petersen’s wing.
Jantjies, meanwhile, was exactly the general the Lions needed him to be, testing the Stormers with a varied kicking display of cross-kicks, up and under and little chips.
Lions scrumhalf Morne van der Burg, too, was impressive as he cleaned quickly and kicked accurately from the base of the Lions ruck.
Willemse then knocked over a penalty from 40m to make it 10-9 to the visitors going into the final half an hour, and despite their dominance for large periods, the Lions had little to show for their efforts.
Then, out of nowhere, Stormers No 12 Rikus Pretorius pounced to intercept a pass from Jantjies and charge towards the line for the Stormers’ first try of the match.
Willemse kicked the extras, and the hosts took the lead for the first time in the countest – 16-10.
The Stormers had their second soon afterwards when, after a sustained period of attack and an ambitious quick tap from a penalty from hooker Scarra Ntubeni, outside centre Dan du Plessis went crashing over.
That gave the Stormers a 23-10 lead and with the Lions running out of puff and with errors creeping into their game, the contest looked over.
That was until the 74th minute when a break from Odendaal again saw Jantjies score under the posts, narrowing the score to 23-17 and giving his side a sniff at snatching a late win.
The Lions came agonisingly close to scoring in the dying moments, but the Stormers defence held firm.
Stormers 23 (6)
Tries: Rikus Pretorius, Dan du Plessis
Conversions: Damian Willemse (2)
Penalties: Willemse (3)
Lions 17 (10)
Tries: Rabz Maxwane, Elton Jantjies
Conversions: Jantjies (2)
15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Dan du Plessis, 12 Rikus Pretorius, 11 Leolin Zas, 10 Damian Willemse, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Juarno Augustus, 7 Ernst van Rhyn, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 JD Schickerling, 4 Salmaan Moerat, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff
Substitutes: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Leon Lyons, 18 Neethling Fouche, 19 Chris van Zyl, 20 Nama Xaba, 21 Paul de Wet, 22 Michal Haznar, 23 Tim Swiel
15 EW Viljoen, 14 Jamba Ulengo, 13 Burger Odendaal, 12 Dan Kriel, 11 Rabz Maxwane, 10 Elton Jantjies (captain), 9 Morne van den Berg, 8 Len Massyn, 7 Vincent Tshituka, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Ruben Schoeman, 3 Carlu Sadie, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Sti Sithole
Substitutes (from): 16 Jan-Henning Campher, 17 Dylan Smith, 18 Wiehahn Herbst, 19 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 20 MJ Pelser, 21 Hacjivah Dayimani, 22 Ross Cronje, 23 Gianni Lombard