No 8 Kwagga Smith bagged a brace to guide the Lions to a nervy 38-29 win over the Highlanders at Ellis Park on Saturday. MARIETTE ADAMS reports.
The Lions continued their steady rise up the South African conference table and now sit above the Sharks following this exhilarating victory over the third-ranked New Zealand side.
In that context, it was a crucial result for the Lions, but it was by no means their best performance. Malcolm Marx’s work at the lineout wasn’t perfect, while their defence and handling left much to be desired. That said, the double by Smith, Elton Jantjies’ flawless kicking off the tee, and the anchoring of the scrum by props Dylan Smith and Carlü Sadie plus hooker Marx were the standout displays that sunk the Highlanders.
Notwithstanding his defective lineout throw-ins, Marx, in particular, showed why he is one of the the chief lieutenants in this Lions side, but also the Springboks set-up. The hooker made 46 metres from 14 carries, beat three defenders, completed two offloads, made one crucial turnover on the ground and completed four tackles.
It is also testament of the quality of coach Swys de Bruin’s charges that they managed to manufacture a triumph against a Kiwi team, despite not firing on all cylinders. The Lions made just 68 tackles of which 13 were missed, They conceded a whopping 13 turnovers and somehow still came out on top.
#SuperRugby – HALFTIME:
Lions 14-12 Highlanders
Tries from Kwagga Smith and Andries Coetzee have put the home side in front at Emirates Airline Park.
— SuperSport (@SuperSportTV) May 18, 2019
In a seesaw first half, the lead exchanged hands thrice as the Lions were forced to come back from behind twice to take a slender two-point advantage into the break. Wing Sio Tomkinson and Tom Franklin scored for the hosts, while Andries Coetzee and Smith responded with tries for the Lions.
Ultimately, Jantjies’ two conversions, compared to just the one from Josh Ioane was the difference at the midway mark.
The second half was much more stop-start than both sides would have hoped for, but there was still plenty of action. A try and a penalty for the Lions, and two more tries the way of the Highlanders brought the score to 24-22 in favour of the hosts and set up a nervy final quarter.
The Lions looked to have sealed the win when Shaun Reynolds rounded off a brilliant try which included some silky touches from Jantjies, with Tyrone Green and Aphiwe Dyantyi in the lead-up. The Highlanders, though, would hit back with a long-range effort finished off by Josh Ioane, before the Lions seized control for one last time via a try from Courtnall Skosan to wrap up a gutsy triumph.
Lions – Tries: Andries Coetzee, Kwagga Smith (2), Shaun Reynolds, Courtnall Skosan. Conversions: Elton Jantjies (4). Penalty: Jantjies.
Highlanders – Try: Sio Tomkinson, Tom Franklin, Jordan Hyland, Matt Faddes, Josh Ioane. Conversion: Ioane (2).
Lions – 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Courtnall Skosan, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronjé, 8 Kwagga Smith, 7 Cyle Brink, 6 Marnus Schoeman, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Stephan Lewies, 3 Carlü Sadie, 2 Malcolm Marx (c), 1 Dylan Smith.
Subs: 16 Jan-Henning Campher, 17 Sti Sithole, 18 Johannes Jonker, 19 Vincent Tshituka, 20 Hacjivah Dayimani, 21 Nic Groom, 22 Shaun Reynolds, 23 Tyrone Green.
Highlanders – 15 Matt Faddes, 14 Jordan Hyland, 13 Rob Thompson, 12 Teihorangi Walden, 11 Sio Tomkinson, 10 Josh Ioane, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Shannon Frizell, 7 Luke Whitelock (c), 6 Dillon Hunt, 5 Tom Franklin, 4 Josh Dickson, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Ayden Johnstone.
Subs: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Daniel Lienert-Brown, 18 Siate Tokolahi, 19 Jack Whetton, 20 James Lentjes, 21 Kayne Hammington, 22 Dan Hollinshead, 23 Waisake Naholo.
Photo: Anton Geyser/Gallo Images