The Leicester Tigers flanker, in his first Test appearance in a Lions shirt, got on the end of a break by centre Brian O’Driscoll to dot down in the 23rd minute and open the tourists’ account.
But the Lions had already conceded 13 points and were unable to get a real foothold in the game, finding it especially tough in the scrum.
Then in the second half, with pressure increasing on the hosts’ tryline, Croft was on hand to score a second try from close range. After a Stephen Jones conversion, the tourists’ still trailed 26-14.
Welsh scrum-half Mike Phillips then grabbed a third try for the tourists as they benefited from unrelenting second-half pressure in the world champions’ 22 and Jones chipped over the extras to cut the deficit to just five points with five minutes remaining.
Despite renewed energy and a couple of half-chances for a breakthrough, however, the Lions were unable to find the score that would turn the game on its head and lost 26-21.