Lions power into third consecutive Super Rugby final
Brenden Nel
July 28, 2018

A brace of tries each by the Emirates Lions talisman Kwagga Smith and Malcolm Marx sent their side into their third consecutive Vodacom Super Rugby final with a 44-26 win over the Waratahs at Emirates Airline Park on Saturday.

Both players scored instrumental tries as their side came back from 14-0 down to power to a massive win and book their place in the final against the Crusaders in Christchurch next weekend.

And while the Crusaders will feel comfortable that they will start as favourites at home, with the Lions likely to be heavily written off with the long travel schedule for the final, they will leave South Africa on Saturday knowing they have nothing to lose.

Some massive performances again by the likes of Ross Cronje, Franco Mostert, Ruan Dreyer and Warren Whiteley again helped put the Lions through and proved that those who have written them off this season have been premature.

With a dominant maul and a strong setpiece, the Lions shook off their poor start to ensure South Africa will have a chance of regaining the Super Rugby title, but for the Lions to be third time lucky they will have to overcome the odds of travelling.

In a way the start of the game reminded Joburg fans of the game against the Bulls a fews back. A nervous start, two early tries and the Lions were staring down a 14-0 barrel before standing up and storming back into the game.

The Lions were stretched early on as the Waratahs used the width of the field well to exploit their defensive alignment and send Ned Hanigan in for the opening try.

That was followed four minutes later by a massive thumping run down the sideline by Taqele Naiyaravoro, who brushed off both Andries Coetzee and Ruan Combrinck before the move was temporarily stopped five metres out. The recycled ball though found the Lions stretched again as Israel Folau cut inside to saunter over the tryline and give his side a significant early lead.

But then the Lions forwards took over. Back to basics and in the simplest fashion out they started pounding their way upfield. And slowly the poison began to work, and in the 21st minute Smith broke three massive tackles to power his way over to score.

Then one of the most memorable tries of the season unfolded in a matter of seconds. Winger Aphiwe Dyantyi was audacious as he chipped over the defence, collected and then put on the afterburners to skin Bernard Foley and score an impressive individual try. If that doesn’t go down as one of the tries of the season, it would be a tragedy.

After Franco Mostert’s score was disallowed – it seemed the TMO ruled the ball had gone forward before he went over the line – the Lions still upped the ante, and with another monster drive sent Malcolm Marx over the line to put themselves in the lead for the first time in the game.

But some quick thinking by the Tahs just before halftime sent the sides into the break level, as a quick lineout throw to the front found prop Tom Robertson, who peeled around and ran through to score, catching the Lions unawares.

The second half belonged to the Lions forwards, as both Smith and Marx made some big turnovers on their own line to deny the Tahs any further points early on, before Elton Jantjies put them back into the lead with a penalty in the 55th minute.

Then the moment that lost the Tahs the game. With the Lions heavily on attack, Ross Cronje passed the ball into retreating Damien Fitzpatrick, and in the context of the momentum the Lions had, referee Glen Jackson had no option but to pull out the yellow, and end the Tahs dreams of an upset win.

Marx drove that advantage home at the back of a lineout maul seconds later, and then Smith broke another big tackle out wide to run in for his second try to give the Lions an unassailable lead.

Jantjies extended the lead with a monster 50 metre penalty before Jake Gordon grabbed a consolation try for the visitors, but the final word was left to replacement winger Courtnal Skosan to dot down from a Jantjies cross kick, and send his side into the final.

The Lions will give themselves a chance in Christchurch and if they can find the same form in New Zealand they may well have, even though they will be heavy underdogs.


Emirates Lions – tries: Kwagga Smith (2), Aphiwe Dyantyi, Malcolm Marx (2), Courtnal Skosan

Conversion: Elton Jantjies (4). Penalties: Elton Jantjies (2).

Waratahs – tries: Ned Hanigan, Israel Folau, Tom Robertson, Jake Gordon. Conversions: Bernard Foley (3)

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