CAPE TOWN: Canadian international Jebb Sinclair came off the bench to score a crucial try as the Stormers stayed top of the Super Rugby South African conference log with a hard-fought 27-17 win over the Lions at Newlands on Saturday.
Stormers were under severe pressure against the southern hemisphere competition's bottom team as they clung to a three-point lead with 12 minutes to go.
Lions mounted a 16-phase move which took them close to the Stormers line before a turnover enabled Stormers full-back Gio Aplon to clear with a long kick downfield.
The momentum changed as the Lions were forced to concede a five-metre scrum and two attacks by the Stormers broke down before a steal by Deon Fourie set up Sinclair for a try in the corner after 71 minutes.
Peter Grant's conversion gave the Stormers some breathing space and they sealed victory with a try by right-wing Gerhard van den Heever six minutes later.
Lions, whose New Zealand-born coach John Mitchell was suspended last week after a player revolt, outscrummed a Stormers team hit by injuries and illness, but captain and No 8 Josh Strauss bemoaned a lack of discipline.
"Our scrums went well and stopping their drives was good. If it hadn't been for our discipline and giving away too many penalties it could have been a different game," said Strauss.
Stormers were lucky to lead 10-3 at half-time. Fly-halves Grant and Elton Jantjies exchanged penalties before Aplon scored a converted try after 30 minutes.
But the Stormers lost two of their first three put-ins at the scrums and were knocked out of their stride by some ferocious Lions' tackling. Flank Derick Minnie was outstanding for the visitors, several times stealing Stormers ball at the breakdowns.
Stormers fared better in the line-outs, where inexperienced flank Don Armand shone alongside tall lock Andries Bekker, and their scrumming improved in the second half when Brok Harris replaced Frans Malherbe.
Strauss burst through for the Lions eight minutes after half-time and the Lions stunned the Newlands crowd into silence before Sinclair's late try.
Lock Franco van der Merwe scored a consolation try for the Lions in the last minute.
"It was a tough week with late withdrawals," said Stormers captain and inside centre Jean de Villiers. "Guys were going down with injuries and 'flu. But we stuck to our guns."
STORMERS 27 (Gio Aplon, Jebb Sinclair, Gerhard van den Heever tries Peter Grant 3 cons 2 pens) bt LIONS 17 (Joshua Strauss, Franco van der Merwe tries Elton Jantjies 2 cons pen) at Newlands Rugby Stadium. Referee: Mark Lawrence.