A hat-trick of tries from former Springbok winger Courtnall Skosan helped the Lions trounce the Griquas 61-31 Friday for the biggest South African Super Rugby Unlocked win so far this season.
Skosan scored the first try of the match on 10 minutes and the last a minute from time as the home side secured a bonus-point victory behind closed doors at Ellis Park in Johannesburg due to the coronavirus.
The emphatic triumph by nine tries to four lifted the Lions from sixth to fourth in the standings after three matches, three points behind frontrunners the Bulls, who host the Stormers in Pretoria Saturday.
Griquas, the Kimberley-based also-rans of South African rugby for decades, remain bottom with just two points after three consecutive losses.
The clinical finishing of Skosan and brilliant goal-kicking from captain and fly-half Elton Jantjies, who converted all but one of the tries, contributed 31 of the Lions points.
Tries from centres Dan Kriel and Wandisile Simelane, winger Stean Pienaar, flanker MJ Pelser, hooker Jaco Visagie and substitute lock Reinhard Nothnagel completed the total.
Griquas fly-half and skipper George Whitehead kicked a penalty and converted tries by scrum-half Zak Burger, hooker HJ Luus, full-back James Verity-Amm and substitute back Tinus de Beer.
Jantjies and his team-mates were thrilled to succeed after narrow away losses to the Sharks and the Stormers and the postponement of a home fixture with the Cheetahs owing to positive Covid-19 tests.
"It was great to see the team repeatedly running the ball tonight," said the playmaker who was part of the 2019 Springbok Rugby World Cup-winning squad.
- 'Excellent preparations' -
"Although the postponement of the Cheetahs match was a blow, we had a normal week from Monday and our excellent preparations paid off against the Griquas.
"This was a beautiful night for goal-kicking with no wind and it was great to convert eight consecutive tries from angles of varying difficulty."
His 16 points lifted Jantjies to the top of the scorers' table with 39, three more than Eddie Fouche of the Pumas, who is unlikely to play again this season after dislocating his hip last weekend.
Whitehead admitted that the gap in quality between the two teams showed during the first half at the end of which the Lions led 28-3, but he was proud of a second-half fightback.
"The Lions have more experienced players than us and much greater strength in depth and it was glaringly obvious during the first 40 minutes," he said.
"But this team will never throw in the towel and it was great to score four tries during a much-improved second-half performance."
On Saturday, the Pumas host the Sharks in Mbombela (formerly Nelspruit) followed by the highlight of the weekend schedule between the Bulls against the Stormers.