Kwagga Smith scored two tries as the Lions banked a crucial 41-22 bonus-point win against the Stormers in Johannesburg on Saturday. JON CARDINELLI reports.
The result sees the Lions leapfrogging the Vodacom Bulls and Sharks into second place on the South African conference log. The five log points has certainly strengthened their bid for a playoff place, with only two regular-season games remaining.
The Lions came into this game without two leaders in Warren Whiteley and Elton Jantjies. Whiteley has been ruled out for the rest of the season due to injury, while Jantjies has been suspended for a breach of team protocol.
Despite the absence of Whiteley, the Lions dominated the set pieces and breakdowns. Despite the absence of Jantjies, the backline took excellent options to exploit the Stormers’ poor defence in the wider channels.
Kwagga Smith was the standout for the hosts. The No 8 fought hard to win some important turnovers for his side at the breakdowns. He scored the first try of the game after the Lions set a maul five metres from the Stormers’ line.
The visitors managed to hang in there until half-time. The score read 13-10 in the favour of the Lions, and didn’t quite reflect the hosts’ dominance.
#SuperRugby – HALFTIME:
Lions 13-10 Stormers
With both teams needing the win to keep their playoff hopes alive, we’re in for a massive second half at Emirates Airline Park 🇿🇦🏉 pic.twitter.com/FTKrZ3tAYu
— SuperSport🏏 (@SuperSportTV) June 1, 2019
Smith scored his second try after the break as the Lions began to take control. Lionel Mapoe was involved in the buildup, and showed good pace and skill to set up a subsequent try for Courtnall Skosan.
When Aphiwe Dyantyi rounded off another successful strike down the left-hand flank, the Lions seemed to be on course for a comfortable win.
The Stormers came back strongly, though. When Josh Stander scored, it appeared as if the Cape side might deny the Lions a try-scoring bonus point.
The Lions had the final say, however, scoring late in the piece through replacement Hacjivah Dayimani to secure the five log points.
The result marks the Lions’ first win against a South African team in 2019.
Lions – Tries: Kwagga Smith (2), Andries Coetzee, Courtnall Skosan, Aphiwe Dyantyi, Hacjivah Dayimani. Conversions: Shaun Reynolds (4). Penalty: Reynolds.
Stormers – Try: Johan du Toit, Herschel Jantjies, Josh Stander. Conversions: Stander (2). Penalty: Stander.
Lions – 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Courtnall Skosan, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Shaun Reynolds, 9 Ross Cronjé, 8 Kwagga Smith (c), 7 Vincent Tshituka, 6 Cyle Brink, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Stephan Lewies, 3 Carlü Sadie, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Dylan Smith.
Subs: 16 Jan-Henning Campher, 17 Sti Sithole, 18 Johannes Jonker, 19 Reinhard Nothnagel, 20 Marnus Schoeman, 21 Hacjivah Dayimani, 22 Nic Groom, 23 Tyrone Green.
Stormers –15 Damian Willemse, 14 Seabelo Senatla, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Dillyn Leyds, 10 Josh Stander, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Johan du Toit, 6 Jaco Coetzee, 5 Cobus Wiese, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Steven Kitshoff (c).
Replacements: 16 Chad Solomon, 17 Corne Fourie, 18 Frans Malherbe, 19 Ernst van Rhyn, 20 Marno Redelinghuys, 21 Justin Phillips, 22 Jean-Luc du Plessis, 23 Dan Kriel.
Photo: Chris Kotze/BackpagePix