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JOHANNESBURG, April 1 (Reuters) - Flanker Jaco Kriel scored a match-winning try four minutes from time to hand South Africa’s Lions a thrilling 34-29 victory over compatriots the Sharks in a see-saw Super Rugby clash at Ellis Park on Saturday.
Last year’s beaten finalists secured a ninth home victory in a row as they also scored tries through hooker Malcolm Marx and wing Courtnall Skosan, while flyhalf Elton Jantjies added two conversions and four penalties.
The Sharks will rue poor discipline but bagged tries through prop Coenie Oosthuizen and wing Cobus van Wyk as teenage flyhalf Curwin Bosch shone with the boot with 19 points.
The visitors held a narrow 16-13 lead at halftime but should have been comfortably ahead with lock Etienne Oosthuizen at the centre of two incidents that kept the Lions in the hunt.
The Sharks were leading through Bosch's penalty before they scored the game’s first try, having dominated the early physical exchanges.
Wing Van Wyk broke through the Lions’ defensive line and fed prop Coenie Oosthuizen, who had enough strength to hold off a challenge from Lions skipper Warren Whiteley.
The teams traded penalties, before the Sharks looked to have extended their lead further when centre Andre Esterhuizen crossed the tryline in the corner. But the television match official rightly ruled that lock Oosthuizen had cleaned out a Lions player around the neck at a ruck in the build-up, and the score was ruled out.
Etienne Oosthuizen was penalised again for a similar offence a minute before the break and this time received a yellow card.
The Lions kicked for touch and their numerical advantage in the forwards saw Marx barge over from the resulting lineout.
The home side took the lead, with Oosthuizen still off the field, early in the second half when scrumhalf Faf de Klerk found space and fed speedster Skosan to score in the corner.
A drop-goal from Coetzee extended the home lead to seven, but Van Wyk’s try and Bosch’s conversion levelled the score once more.
The teams again traded penalties before Bosch used the altitude of the Highveld to land a 70-yard three-pointer with 10 minutes, only for Jantjies to level again.
But the home side would not be denied and when Kriel broke down the touchline, he was able to canter home in the corner for the winning score. (Reporting By Nick Said,; Editing by Neville Dalton)