Lions march into Final
MATCH REPORT: The Lions will play the Hurricanes in the Super Rugby Final after the Johannesburg team thumped the Highlanders 42-30 in their semifinal at Ellis Park on Saturday.
The home side outscored their opponents five tries to four and they also used their power upfront to dominate the scrums throughout the 80 minutes.
Lions captain Jaco Kriel and flyhalf Elton Jantjies were also quite exceptional and both were key in the Lions' success.
The Highlanders looked the more settled side in the opening minutes and they dominated possession and territory. However, they did squander a clear try-scoring opportunity after a fantastic Ben Smith break.
The Lions also squandered a try-scoring opportunity a few minutes later after Courtnall Skosan could not find any of his teammates with a pass after he was put into space.
A few minutes later. the home side had an opportunity to put some points on the board via Ruan Combrinck's boot after a scrum penalty. However, the Springbok could not find the direction from a long way out.
It was only a matter of time before the Lions found some confidence with ball and when they did, they scored the game's first points. After a sustained attack in the Highlanders' half, the ball found it's way to Jantjies who dived under the polls for the try. He converted his own try to give the home side a 7-0 lead after 13 minutes.
Highlanders flyhalf Lima Sopoaga reduced the deficit a few minutes later with a penalty. However, the Lions found themselves seven points ahead again soon after when Jantjies converted a penalty from straight in front. After 20 minutes it was 10-3 in favour of the home side.
The Lions then went further in front in the 24th minute when centre Rohan Janse van Rensburg pounced on a Highlanders' loose pass to sprint away for his team's second try. Jantjies converted to make it 17-3.
The Highlanders had an opportunity to hit back straight away. However, flank Elliot Dixon lost the ball over the tryline after a fantastic build up by his teammates.
The visitors did have the final say just before half-time when Sopoaga converted a penalty to reduce the deficit to 11 points.
It was an entertaining start in the second half with both teams crossing the whitewash in the first ten minutes.
Jantjies opened the scoring in the second 40 with a penalty before setting up a great try for wing Courtnall Skosan. The flyhalf found space in his own 22 and sprinted away before passing to Skosan who sprinted in for the try.
However, it the Highlanders hit back straight away after the Lions failed to secure possession from the restart. After a number of phases, the ball eventually found its way to Matt Faddes who cantered in for the try.
The Highlanders thought they were back into after that score, but all their hard work was undone a few minutes later when Jantjies again masterminded another score for the home team.
After adding another three points with the boot, Jantjies' vision setup a try for captain Kriel after a pinpoint crosskick. Kriel gathered and sprinted past two defenders to score the try. Jantjies converted and the Lions were leading by 24 points after 55 minutes.
The Highlanders did not give up and were rewarded when Sopoaga scored a try in the corner from an impossible position a few minutes later.
However, that would be the visitors last glimmer of hope and the home side controlled proceedings for the rest of the game.
Lions forward Lourens Erasmus put the final nail in the coffin in the 73rd minute when he went over for a try. Jantjies converted and the Lions had a 26-point leading going into the final minutes.
The Highlanders did score two tries late on, but it was too little, too late at the end of the day.
Man of the match: The Lions front row, Julian Redelinghuys, Malcolm Marx and Dylan Smith, laid the platform with a strong performance in the scrum, while Franco Mostert was once again a colossus in the physical stuff. Lionel Mapoe caused all sorts of problems for the Highlanders when he had ball in hand. However, the award goes to both Jaco Kriel and Elton Jantjies. The duo were outstanding throughout the game and were both influential in their team's success.
Moment of the match: For us, there were two. Jaco Kriel's try-saving tackle on Matt Faddes and Elton Jantjies’ superb vision to set-up Courtnall Skosan's try early in the second half.
Villain of the match: None. It was a great game, especially for the Lions.
Tries: Jantjies, Janse van Rensburg, Skosan, Kriel, Erasmus
Cons: Jantjies 4
Pens: Jantjies 3
Tries: Faddes, Sopoaga, Naholo, Wheeler
Cons: Sopoaga 2
Pens: Sopoaga 2
Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Francois de Klerk, 8 Ruan Ackermann, 7 Warwick Tecklenburg, 6 Jaco Kriel (captain), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Julian Redelinghuys, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Dylan Smith.
Replacements: 16 Armand van der Merwe, 17 Corné Fourie, 18 Jacques van Rooyen, 19 Lourens Erasmus, 20 Steph de Witt, 21 Ross Cronje, 22 Howard Mnisi, 23 Jaco van der Walt.
Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith (captain), 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Matt Faddes, 12 Malakai Fekitoa, 11 Patrick Osborne, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Luke Whitelock, 7 James Lentjes, 6 Elliot Dixon, 5 Tom Franklin, 4 Alex Ainley, 3 Josh Hohneck, 2 Ash Dixon, 1 Daniel Lienert-Brown.
Replacements: 16 Greg Pleasants-Tate, 17 Aki Seiuli, 18 Ross Geldenhuys, 19 Joe Wheeler, 20 Liam Squire, 21 Dan Pryor, 22 Te Aihe Toma, 23 Marty Banks.
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Ben O´Keeffe (New Zealand), AJ Jacobs (South Africa)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)