Lions 44-26 Waratahs: South African side book third straight Super Rugby final place
By Michael Cantillon
Last Updated: 28/07/18 5:59pm
The Lions booked a place in their third successive Super Rugby final on Saturday, following a topsy-turvy 44-26 victory over the Waratahs in Johannesburg.
Having fallen 14-0 down to the fast-starting Tahs after tries from Ned Hanigan and Israel Folau, the Lions hit back with first-half scores of their own through Kwagga Smith, Malcolm Marx and Aphiwe Dyantyi.
Waratahs prop Tom Robertson then scored in the final minute of the half after a lineout move, but Bernard Foley's missed conversion left the scores at 19-19 at the break.
The second half proved a different story, as the powerful Lions took hold of proceedings and after replacement hooker Damien Fitzpatrick's yellow card for offside - a repeat Waratahs infringement - the home side were ruthless.
Marx notched his second from the ensuing lineout, at the back of a rolling maul, before flanker Smith scored his second five minutes later.
Elton Jantjies added a long-range penalty before Waratahs replacement Jake Gordon scored with four minutes left. It was too late for the Australian side, though, as Courtnall Skosan's last-minute try rubber-stamped victory and a date with the Crusaders in Christchurch.
It was the third such game in a row in which the Lions started slowly as Hanigan scored a fourth-minute try for the Waratahs and Folau repeated the feat just four minutes later.
The Lions did soon wake up, though, and got back into things when the Waratahs defence allowed Smith to drive through three tackles and score the home side's first points after 21 minutes before Dyantyi's brilliant effort four minutes later.
Dyantyi fielded a kick deep inside his own half, chipped the ball over the defensive line, collected it out of the air and then burst away with incredible pace to score a superb solo effort to delight the home crowd.
Marx claimed his first try of the afternoon in the 35th minute from a driving maul, but a trick routine at a lineout soon after allowed Robertson to burst over for the Waratahs as the two sides went into the interval level after a six-try first half.
A Jantjies penalty from close range put the Lions 22-19 ahead 15 minutes into the second half, before Fitzpatrick was sin-binned and what followed was a second try by Marx at the end of another driving maul.
Smith then scored his second try with a speedy burst off the side of a ruck after a wonderful break from Ross Cronje, effectively sealing victory for the Lions.
Jantjies kicked a long-range penalty form in his own half to stretch the lead to 37-19 before substitute Gordon got the Waratahs' first points of the second half with time almost up.
The Lions had the final say, however, as Jantjies cross-field kick allowed Skosan to score on the final whistle for an 18-point triumph.
The Crusaders beat the Hurricanes 30-12 in their semi-final earlier on Saturday, which means this year's final will be a repeat of the 2017 decider, which the New Zealanders won away in Johannesburg.