They followed up last week’s 28-27 victory over the Ospreys with a dominant second half performance – scoring 21 points to 5 – in windy and sometimes wet conditions to set their VURC II campaign on fire.
A powerful maul and scrum, determined defence and some hard running by their backs had Cardiff punch drunk and ready to throw in the towel by the time Quan Horn on the left wing claimed the bonus point try with two minutes remaining, winning the race to a kick ahead and touching down.
It was a stunning turnaround after Cardiff had made good use of driving wind and rain in the first half to keep the Emirates Lions penned in their own half. The pressure yielded two penalty goals for Cardiff flyhalf Jarrod Evans as the visitors infringed at defensive rucks in the first 25 minutes.
When the conditions eased the Lions finally found field position to claw back three points from the boot of flyhalf Gianni Lombard after forcing a ruck penalty of their own thanks to young centre Henco van Wyk on the half hour.
But Cardiff looked the likelier to score the first try and it came from another attacking lineout after they had won a kicking dual when the Emirates Lions fumbled the ball into touch. From the resulting possession the visitors’ defence was finally breached when flank James Botham finished from close range.
It was no more than the home team could have expected from all their territorial pressure but they were stunned with the final movement of the half when the Lions scored a try of their own from their first possession in the home half 22.
They kicked a penalty to the left-hand corner and, as they got the maul rumbling towards the corner flag, they were collapsed and Scottish referee Sam Grove-White had no hesitation in awarding a penalty try and yellow carding No 8 Taulupe Faletau.
The second half was a reversal of the first and the Emirates Lions took the lead after 10 minutes of concerted pressure at scrum and maul – just before the eighthman’s return – when a perfect maul thundered into the left-hand corner with hooker PJ Botha coming up smiling.
And replacement scrumhalf Morne van den Berg’s grin was even broader as the Lions took a two-score lead with only 15 minutes remaining (24-13). The Lions had controlled the whole of the half with the wind at their backs and when the ball squirted out on a maul on the goal-line, Van den Berg scooped it up and touched down.
The score sparked Cardiff briefly to life and on an extremely rare entry to the Lions’ 22 they scored a maul try of the own in the left corner by Shane Lewis-Hughes, which Jarrod Evans was unable to convert into the wind.
That might have been the cue for a home fightback but it never materialised with Horn having the final word.
Cardiff Rugby 18 (13) – Tries: James Botham, Shane Lewis-Hughes. Conversion: Jarrod Evans. Penalty goals: Evans (2)
Emirates Lions 31 (10) – Tries: PJ Botha, Morne van den Berg, Quan Horn, Penalty try. Conversions: Gianni Lombard (3). Penalty goal: Lombard.