Kwagga Smith and Malcolm Marx represented everything that was good about the Lions in their comeback 44-26 victory over the Waratahs at Ellis Park on Saturday, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
After 10 minutes of this encounter, the Lions looked completely shell-shocked after the Tahs surged into a 14-0 lead.
Yet, for a Lions side that is so often celebrated for its attacking ball-in-hand play, credit has to go to a forward pack that fronted up and played to their strengths that ultimately proved too much for the Waratahs to handle.
The Lions’ brutal maul was a thing of beauty throughout this clash, with Marx scoring two tries off the back off this powerful platform.
Marx, who walked away with the Man of the Match award in last weekend’s quarter-final in Joburg, was again in imperious form as he completed 40 metres from five carries, while he also won two turnovers.
However, plenty of plaudits must go the way of Smith, who proved to be the beating heart in a gutsy Lions performance.
Besides scoring two vital tries, the Blitzboks superstar beat eight defenders and made as many as 99m, while also contributing with eight tackles and two turnovers.
Although plenty of credit should go the way of both Marx and Smith, a special mention has to be made of supersub Marnus Schoeman, who once again proved to be a peerless impact player.
In a limited second-half performance, Schoeman racked up 34m from six carries, and made one important turnover.
The impact of Schoeman personified an immense second-half effort from the Lions, who remained cool, calm and collected to ultimately outscore the visitors 25-7 during those final 40 minutes.
For the record, nothing separated the two sides on the scoreboard at 19-19 at half-time, which was also the case when it came to most key statistics.
In terms of metres carried in the opening stanza, the Lions edged the Tahs by 274 to 260; both teams had made 41 carries each, while the visitors had beaten 14 defenders to 10. It was similarly negligible in terms of both possession and territory.
Yet the Lions turned on the style in the second half – with Marx and Smith standing tall – to book a third successive final.
Photo: Gordon Arons/Gallo Images