Lions outmuscle Waratahs in Joberg. - Green and Gold Rugby

Lions outmuscle Waratahs in Joberg.

Lions outmuscle Waratahs in Joberg.

The Lions have stormed into the Super Rugby final with a dominant forwards display in Johannesburg.  The home side came from an early 0-14 deficit with a dominant display by the forwards and superior attacking prowess to claim a 44-26 victory and earning the right to take on the Crusaders in the final at Christchurch next Saturday.

The Match

1st Half:

The Waratahs flew off the blocks and showed they had turned up to play, winning the first two lineouts and through some impressive attacking rugby putting Ned Hanigan over in the corner to take a 7-0 lead.  This was followed moment later with Naiyaravoro bustling past two defenders on the left wing then offloading to Beale, eventually resulting in Folau dotting down under the sticks.  After 8 minutes, the Waratahs were up 14-0 and an upset looked well and truly on the cards.KMP-WARvLIONS-7718

The Lions remained composed and it took the best part of the next ten minutes for them to get on the board.  After of succession of penalties against the visitors, the ill-discipline took it’s toll and Kwagga Smith got the better of the recalled Tolu Latu to score for the home side.  Soon after young winger Aphiwe Dyantui stunned the crowd with a brilliant chip and chase to score down the left side and level the scores.

Arguably the world’s hooker Malcolm Marx then got the home side in front for the first time scoring off the back of a powerful driving maul.  Despite this the Waratahs struck back with a nice play from the front of the lineout, Miller offloading to Tom Robertson to score.  Both of these tries were unconverted and the scores were level at 19 all at half time.

Second Half:

The warning signs for the Waratahs set in early in the second half with a scrum penalty just four minutes in.  Both sides had their chances and it took until the 56th minute for the deadlock to be broken with a Jantjies penalty goal from right in front.  Soon after Damien Fitzpatrick was sent to the naughty chair for 10 minutes for getting in the way of a pass while returning onside.

The Lions capitalised on the extra man immediately from the ensuing lineout with Marx piloting another driving maul over the line to score a brace.  Kwagga Smith was not to be outdone, also bringing up his double for the night soon after taking advantage of a big overlap.  Once back to a full contingent the Waratahs responded with Wells giving a brilliant sneaky offload to Jake Gordon.

Kwagga Smith tackled just short of the line

Kwagga Smith scored a double

It was too little too late for the Waratahs but they weren’t going to die wondering, in a late attempt to bridge the gap they split the ball inside the 22 and Skosan scored a sealing final try for the home side.  Lions win 44-26.


The visitors were gallant in defeat.  Aside from the opening 10 minutes they were never on top as the effects travel and altitude set in.  They will be left pondering on the ‘what if’ had they been able to play this game at home instead of in Johannesburg.  This would have been attained with only one more win, notably the final round defeat at the hands of the Brumbies.


The Lions will now take on the Crusaders in the Super Rugby final for the second successive year.  This year’s final will be an even more formidable task as they have to travel to Christchurch.  The big forward pack and the breakdown presence of Marx, Smith and Whiteley, along with a couple of dynamic backs is certainly going to make it an interesting contest next Saturday.

The Game Changer

Marx’s try late in the first half really broke the Waratahs’ hearts.  Despite responding almost immediately to that try they were unable to get any real ascendancy in the forwards after the break.


Malcolm Marx put in a trademark performance to star for the home side.  He was simply brilliant at the breakdown, taking Pocock’s record for the number of turnovers in a season.

Wallaby watch

If anyone thinks Kurtley Beale isn’t going to be at #12 for the Wallabies they are dreaming, he was outstanding.  Of the uncapped players it would be nice to see Holloway developed.

Kurtley Beale

Kurtley Beale was the best for the Waratahs

The Details

Crowd: Unknown

Score & Scorers

Lions 44
Tries: Malcolm Marx (2), Kwagga Smith (2), Aphiwe Dyanti, Courtnall Skosan
Conversions: Elton Jantjies (4)
Penalties: Elton Jantjies (2)  

Waratahs 26
Tries: Ned Hanigan, Israel Folau, Tom Robertson, Jake Gordon
Conversions: Bernard Foley (3)
Penalties: Nil

Yellow card – Damien Fitzpatrick – cynical play

  • Greg

    Thanks for the report. I haven’t watched the game yet but followed the commentary.

    I thought the Waratahs gave it their all. Some silly mistakes and some bad luck…. but in the end they did not win the breakdown and could not win form there. Very entertaining game,

    Very refreshing not to be reading about the ref!!

  • cantab

    Great effort by the Waratahs, made a real a game of it unlike the Hurricanes who turn with a conservative and brain dead game plan.

    I’m relieved the crusaders don’t have to face the Waratahs back line in the final.

    • Hoss

      Yep, that plan from the Canes was unfathanoble, , infathomible – was without fathom. Why deviate so far from what got them there in the first place ?

      • cantab

        I think they just didn’t have the confidence to back themselves to beat the Crusaders defence. Hurricanes had a horrid run of results coming into that match (having lost their last 4 away games) and I guess they thought they had to reinvent the wheel to have a chance.
        I wish Mo’unga hadn’t of dropped it cold in near the try line, A donut at half time is what they deserved.

        • Hoss

          Yep, mo’unga was special – I still don’t see how the try to Savea was awarded but no impact to the result.

      • joy

        GAGR’s very own Mark Twain.

        • Hoss

          Who does he play for Joy ?

  • juswal

    Thanks, Jeremy.

    Australian teams have to avoid playing finals in South Africa.

    • Bakkies

      Apart from the Brumbies who have won finals at Newlands and Loftus.

      • juswal

        All teams. It’s better if they avoid the need to go there.

        • Bakkies

          All teams have to win there (I don’t think the Rabble have even broken their SA duck yet). Otherwise the players will struggle mentally while playing there which has been the case since Deans left.

  • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

    Beale should definitely start at 12 for the Wallabies. However, I’d like to see 10. Beale, 12. Toomua (or vice versa) for a few matches in a row too. Perhaps they’ll be an inferior combination to Foley and Beale, but we won’t know until it is tried. It just makes that midfield defence so much stronger.

    • Timbo

      Throwing Toomua into the mix isn’t the answer. When he did play in green and gold, he wasn’t any better than Foley apart from maybe defense and was just shuffling the ball out rather than straightening the attack. As last nights game showed, Foley isn’t as bad as some say defensively. Even Toomua would struggle with some of those big bodies in the Lions pack.

      • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

        I don’t think that’s true at all, and if you go and read some analysis by Scott Allen, or media coverage of him, back in 2013 I know that would back up what I’m saying. Even ignoring that, he looks to have improved a lot in England.

        Foley is something like third highest for missed tackles in SR this year. Not in itself evidence of anything, but backs up what people say about his defence.

        Toomua did straighten the attack, he’s more of a traditional 12 than a 10, but so is Foley in a lot of ways. Toomua is a much better defender, has a big left boot and a long pass, runs good support lines. Question is whether he is as good as Foley at the pace of internationals and how valuable Foley’s running game is vs Toomua’s. I would suspect that he is up to the pace, but we would have to wait to see it tested before being sure.

        George Ford said he was the best 12 he’s ever played with, and George has played with some fantastic 12s including Tuilagi and Farrell.

        • Timbo

          Citing missed tackles is great, but when he’s along side Lima Sopoaga, Elton Jantjies, Kerevi and Mostert(6th for missed and 1st for made), the stats only tell part of the story. 10 is one of the hardest positions to defend in and Foley has not been out in the FB position hiding his supposed tackling failures. According to Fox stats, Foley has made the most tackles amongst his 5/8 fraternity. When you’re mostly tackling back rowers and monsters like Malcolm Marx, that shows that his performance is not as dire as some suggest even ignoring that the Tahs made the finals.
          I don’t even know what a traditional 12 is. Is Nonu a traditional 12? Crotty? Godwin?
          We’ve also seen that Beale has thrived at 12 even though he spends a fair bit of his time at first receiver. To move him to 10, as we’ve seen before, doesn’t work.
          I definitely see Toomua as a initial bench option. with Hodge at 13 or 15, having Toomua as a finisher would be excellent. No doubt we will have injuries this RC and the more quality players like MT the better.

        • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

          I think we’re going to have to agree to disagree.

        • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

          Also, Foley often doesn’t defend in the line. And the centre positions are the most difficult to defend in. Defending in then 10 channel is far easier, especially compared to 13

        • John Tynan

          Has Toomua improved, or the quality to compare against dropped?

        • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

          Probably both? But let’s face it, he’s never been as limited as Foley. The English premiership is certainly no worse than Aus SR.

      • John Tynan

        I agree. Leroy Houston was killing it in Pommyland, and couldn’t get a run with the Reds after we (Aus) paid for him to come back. English form super rugby form.

        • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

          No, he wasn’t ‘killing it’.

        • John Tynan

          We must read different things then.

    • Bakkies

      I don’t think Toomua is the answer. He recently signed an extension with Leicester until 2021 we still don’t know if there will be a payout asked by the Tigers. I don’t know why he signed that extension given that he is married to a girl who is based in Australia (it is hard enough doing long distance when you aren’t married). Throw in his comments about being keen to play in Australia again. I question who is advising these players.

      That aside along with his concussion issues he has had bad injuries at Leicester and in fact he is recovering from one now. With the RA running at a loss and one million was wasted on bringing contracted players from overseas last year it is high time that the clowns in Moore Park stopped giving Cheika carte blanche to bring back injury prone players from Europe. The €200k thrown at Leinster (which wasn’t the full amount asked for) to bring back Kane Douglas while he was in rehab with a back injury was hardly worth it.

      Time to address the elephant in the wrong the regressing under age development starting from the schoolboys and under 20s. Alan Jones again touched on that in his article on Friday.

      • John Tynan

        It’s not the manager’s money for the payout, mate. He’ll still get his 20%.

        • Bakkies

          They are arranging lengthy contracts than going out approaching potential employers while the ink is drying. That is just wrong and it is costing organisations money which they don’t have a lot to throw away unlike Football clubs.

      • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

        It is about finding a balance between short term and longterm results. If Quade is gone there there simply has to be an alternative/backup flyhalf/playmaking 12.

        • Bakkies

          Cheika created this mess with his selection policy of picking favourites which he has admitted to doing and bringing back on contract players from abroad than not selecting them. That’s why players like Toomua and Gill leave. It is costing too much money.

          The RA from the Chairman down are too incompetent to realise this.

          It has left them with less money to address the underlying issue of youth development particularly in the inside backs. The Irish did this with front row development they encouraged clubs and schools to develop props rather than fork out for a test scrum coach with no material to work with.

          The IRFU went out and hired Greg Feek with the likes of McGrath, Furlong, Kilcoyne and Healy to work with.

        • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

          I don’t disagree, Bakkies, that most of the issues can be attributable at least in part to Cheika. I doubt that Gill and Toomua would have gone overseas if they had been getting more Wallaby time, and let’s face it, I think that Toomua especially deserved it.

          I believe that there is a minimum percentage of Super Rugby revenue that has to be spent on player salaries anyway though.

    • Julesie Bolwell

      Could definitely enjoy seeing 10. Toomua 12. Beale but I personally think Beale tends to cramp his backs waaaaay too much when he plays 10. 12 should be furthest in he goes IMO

      • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

        I’ve been keeping a pretty close look on it since the Ireland series and Beale is playing first receiver a lot for both the Wallabies and the Waratahs, more than Foley a lot of the time.

        Thus, I don’t think it makes a difference who plays 10 and who plays 12, Beale will be the primary first receiver in broken play, and Foley/Toomua will generally just play first receiver off set piece ball. We can agree or disagree with the system, but I think it is clear Cheika will opt for it.

        Beale has massively improved in terms of not taking time away from the rest of the backline (not always, but generally). Time to give him the credit he’s due, I think.

  • JS

    Entertaining game. Well done to both sides. One question. Why is Izzy never to be seen defensively when there is a line break. Seems to be always missing in action, or arrives when its all over. Surely he has a cover defence role at fullback, but just as surely, he is being coached not to. Someone should ask.

    • Greg

      good question. Foley seemed to watch the first try, uncertain of whether to commit. He was burned for speed on the second. I guess Folau was in the line somewhere.

  • Keith Butler

    Another game that could have turned on a card. Two tries whileFitzpatrick was cooling his heels.

    • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

      I don’t think the yellow really changed anything. Momentum had swung and Lions were turning the screws.

    • Greg

      hard to argue with the card tho…. whether 9 did it on purpose could be debated but doesn’t really matter.

      • Slim 293

        I could be wrong (I missed the replay), and I know that scrumhalves like to milk those penalties, but watching live I thought the Lions half legitimately was quickly trying to get the ball wide as they were hot on attack and had the numbers… and there was certainly an emphasis on the ‘lazy’ in lazy running in that instance on behalf of Fitzpatrick.

  • Hoss

    Thanks for the write-up Jehovah.

    To be fair, if you would have offered me the semis at the season start I would have taken it, thought you were high on meth, but taken it – so all in all a good result from the boys and well done

    As for the game – it was Ike the Seinfeld episode – bizarro world, where opposites happened. Spanners had a ripper and captaincy sits well with him, but the Barometer was terrible, you give him a wrap but I thought he had a Barry Crocker. Kepu was dreadful, but Robertson was good and here’s something I’ve never typed before, Paddy Ryan was special off the bench and carted it up with vigour. Simmo had had brain snaps, Holloway looked ok, miller was busy but not a lot of impact and Latu was dreadful.

    At 14-0 I had an uneasy feeling we were done for (Bizarro World). We haven’t protected a lead all year. 29-0 v Saders, 17-0 v Chiefs, 19-0 v ABs for that matter. Silly turnovers, penalties and pourus defence killed us. Everyone will ‘what if’ the Ponies game and ‘small pack’ this and that, none of that mattered. Key players playing well below their best and silly mistakes – kicks not out, penalties conceded on attack and one-on-one tackles missed that beat us – the rest are excuses.

    Well done Lions, good luck v the Saders, me thinks the Saders may prove a bridge too far, but it could be a cracker.

    • Keith Butler

      Commiserations Hoss was hoping that the Tahs would win this one and set up an explosive encounter with the Saders and stick it to them. Alas, not to be. Only one winner next week, the Saders will choke the life out of the Lions and record another relatively easy victory.

    • Adrian

      Thanks Hoss

      Who is Barometer?

      I agree with most of your comments, but not re Latu. I thought he was excellent bar a missed tackle that slowed someone (Marks or Smith??), for other guys then to miss before scoring! Thought Katy’s bullocking running was excellent.

      Tahs just out-muscled, that’s all. No disgrace IMO

      • Hoss

        KB – Phipps referred to him as the team ‘barometer’ during the week – kind of ‘if he’s on, were on’ – it stuck

        • GeorgiaSatellite

          Late to the party, as usual. I’m going with ‘Christmas Island’, based on the number of crab mentions in these pages.

      • adastra32

        I appreciate that Aus perception is that the Waratahs have advanced significantly since last year’s low base, but “just” getting out-muscled is far from a that’s all. At this level, having a competitive – no dominant – pack is a pre-requisite for success. Any sign of that coming for next time?

        • Adrian

          Not that I know of.
          Coach says he wants bigger forwards though.
          I’m not sure who is on the market, …anyone know?
          Locks I’d say, at least 2 big Brutes

        • Andy

          In fairness the pack didn’t get dominated every game they played. They played well above their weight for most of the season but just got outdone by the better, more physical team. They played well above what all fans expected especially considering the team sheet. But to advance and grow, true, they need more weight. For instance, Rob Simmons can’t be your heavy lock. We really need a big bopper there who can hurt people.

        • onlinesideline

          I think the reality is that the Lions out enthused us at the breakdown, outenthused us in defence and out enthused us in solo bustling forwards running.

          Thats not from muscle – thats from errrr “enthused stuff”

        • adastra32

          Well, they certainly did all that – but I also saw the Tahs pack being bullied and shunted backwards at scrum time, and effort to no avail in stopping the Lions driving maul….

        • onlinesideline

          Most teams find it near impossible to stop a driving maul if mauling team’s technique is right no matter how big they are. We actually did stop a couple by simply getting set quickly and we have used the maul like the Lions did all season. The scrums were a worry.

    • Kiwi rugby lover

      Mate commiserations. I’m watching the game now as I was in NZ and had too many red wines to watch it live. Your comments are spot on. Some good play but too many stupid mistakes. Must admit Rona’s not looking like an option for the Wallabies so far and I’m not seeing Beale being a saviour yet. Must happen later in the game

      • Greg

        Bad luck about the Canes @kiwirugbylover:disqus

        • Kiwi rugby lover

          Yeah but no complaints. Crusaders are just playing too well

    • BF

      IMO, in the last 3 games (Brumbies, Highlanders, and Lions) Beale has been awful except for about 30 mins. Approx 20 missed tackles and when he doesn’t make a tackle he’s losing his connection in defence. Spends most of the time running sideways and waving his arms at the referee. But, cheika will still reward him.

      If the waratahs were a racehorse, you couldn’t back them.

      Since the June test window, they’ve conceded 158 points – approx 32 per game. You can’t beat the good teams leaking 32 points a game (this includes 25 against an under-manned Sunwolves team).

      They have scored 195 points in the same time (77 against the under-manned Sunwolves). But, of the 195 points they have scored, 88 of these points have been scored when the opposition have not been at full strength.

      As for the future of the waratahs – i’m not convinced the road looks that bright ahead. They will still have the small forward pack that will get dominated. The excessive plan of “out the back” won’t work as Naiyaravoro is leaving (with all due respect, I don’t think Cam Clark and Alex Newsome are in the same class). Hooper will be back, relegating Will Miller to the bench. The amount of work Miller does at the breakdown is enormous, and that’ll go by the way-side if he’s not there. (If hooper played against the Highlander, the waratahs lose).

      • Hoss

        Any idea on 2019 recruitment – who’s in and who’s out – apart from big Naya ?

        I dont know much about the young up and comers, but i don’t recall seeing any large beef headed our way for 2019 – apart from Dempsey returning (man that must have been some injury)?

  • skip

    As impressive as accurate wide passing looks, it’s sauce before the steak, going wide without having earned the right and was fairly straight forward to shut down. Even if Folau or Beale step someone, all the miss passes have left plenty of defenders to slide over & tackle them as the other tah they were marking is clearly not going to get the ball. This is not advanced tactics.

    They got excellent quick ball and the service to Foley was really good but a few more plays for Naiyaravoro to smash over some guys and just generally earning the right to go wide and they would have been so much more dangerous with the quick ball they were getting. My thoughts, for what they’re worth.

    • Bernie Chan

      It is true for the ‘collision’ football isn’t it…? NFL/League/Rugby…no matter how good the backs (say Wide Receivers and passing QBs in NFL) are, a team has to earn the right to spin the ball wide. If you win the ‘collision’ a few times…the defence must compress…then you have created space out wide…

    • John Tynan

      I only watched the last 25 mins through pretty dusty eyes, but my comment was going to be that the game plan they (Tahs) talked up was actually their undoing. Trying to go side to side because your pack is smaller and you’ll run the opposition off their feet means you need to be fitter and more mobile. IN the part of the game I saw, it either Marx or Kwagga or both who were first arriving, and cleaned up on the pilfers. Not enough “earning the right” as you say.

      • skip

        It’s a wallaby problem too. We look fantastic going east west but north south is what matters. It’s why we lose with 65% possession. The only head-scratcher for me about that stat is why our coaches can’t figure out that it’s cos we spend ages fucking about going from touch line to touch line.

  • Nutta

    Thx JC. Random thoughts from a random guy:

    • Playing up there on the highveld needs big motors, kickers on the dime and smart use of replacements. This game reinforced those basics. And going down a man from 60-70min kills you.

    • Warren Whitely talked a big game during the week about scrum and lineout dominance. Whilst I thought the scrum penalties to the Lions were wrong, it’s clear their driving mail is pretty awesome.

    • The Tarts bombing the 3rd try at the 10-12min mark had a huge impact and taking the tap instead of 3pts at 65min was also telling. Then a guy being on for less than 5min pulling a lazy runner and thinking it won’t get carded? Fk me. Clinical, mature heads missing momentarily had big impacts.

    • I was disappointed with the Refs interpretation of a stealer being on their feet. 2 of the Karl Marx penalties especially he was clearly not supporting weight. But that’s how it goes. Tarts didn’t lose because of a Ref.

    • The constant 2nd half shifting to Izzy was too transparent especially with the metres Rona seemed to make. Needed a little variation.

    • Big shouts to Holloway, Wells & Kepu. I thought Rob Simmons had the best game I saw him play in years. But surely Latte played himself back into the Wobbly No2 with that game.

    • Kwagga was my MOTM. Karl was bloody good. I wonder how much more Kwagga has to do to nail down a Bokke jersey?

    • Well done Lions. Well played and well won. For the Tarts, despite the good start, you can’t come in undersized, miss +30 tackles vs 100 made and think you will win anything. That said, the Tarts played bravely. I agreed with Whitely that the Lions will need to be 50% better again to beat the Cru. My money is on the Cru.

    • Adrian

      Good points Nutta, agree all

    • Andy

      Good analysis.

      I think the 2 things that cost us the game were offensive clean-outs and defence. And this is probably due to the size of our pack and lack of physicality. They really tried hard but at the end of the day that Lions pack absolutely monstered them. Hence, a lot of of our attacking play was off the back foot and our guys were clearly tired.

      I thought the backs all had decent games considering. Though, I do think Folau was clearly below his best, especially in the pressure moments.

  • Adrian

    I think that if you take these Tah backs, and add Toupo, TPN, Coleman, Arnold, Tui, Pocock and Hooper, you end up with a pretty good team!

    Add Genia too,… maybe DHP, maybe Korebette,…and maybe keep Kepu, Latu, Robertson in 23….

    …a pretty competitive team I’d say

    • John Tynan

      Still not sold on Rona to step up, and the NSW wingers are solid while not spectacular (albeit with some promise). Needs someone to run the straight lines with Foley and Beale’s majority first move across field.

  • Hoss

    Maybe I am being harsh, I watched it live and after a big day. For mine I recall a lot of missed tackles by him, a kick not out in a critical moment and constant crabbing sideways playing NRL moves (just on that when Spanners finally used a front line runner instead of the decoy (Wells) we scored), it was all so predicatble and didn’t commit the Lions tacklers. The best go forward we got was from Paddy Ryan – he made serious metres into the lions forwards. I will have to watch it again, but so m any cut-out looping passes she hands were called for – I had him at 5.5/10. He’s been special all year it’s just a shame he was off for a semi.

    I have to settle on a nickname for him before the 4N, leaning towards ‘Eldrick’.

    • Kiwi rugby lover

      Mate I tend to agree on Beale. He did make some good plays but far too much running wide and cramping the wingers. He needs to either straighten himself or pull Rona or some one in to straighten first then go wide.

      • Brumby Runner

        That’s how I saw Beale’s involvements too. Right from his first touch when he took the ball mid field and was tackled 1m in from the sideline and promptly gave away a penalty for holding on to the ball.

        Incidentally, that tackle was almost on the sideline. How did Jantjes get away with taking the kick for line at least 5m into the field of play?

        • Kiwi rugby lover

          Reffs don’t care too much about where kicks are from unless it’s a kick at goal

      • Damo

        KRL I have no doubt it’s part of the Tahs backline game plan. KB travelling laterally at speed looking to find a slot to put Izzy, in particular but also N’voro, through. Trouble is it’s low yielding, easy to defend and risky as in isolation/ turnovers. I guess at least it is a plan.

  • Huw Tindall

    I didn’t think i’d ever say this but reflecting on the season I think the Tahs will really miss Naiyaravoro. He scored tries this years few (any) other current wingers coukd and his play down the left flank was a key part of the attacking structure thia year. Even his defensive work and positioning improved. Finally realising his potential.

  • Ed

    One area your Tahs have to improve is discipline.
    In their 18 matches this year, the Tahs conceded 185 penalties and were awarded 134, giving away an average three penalties more a game.
    They were ahead on the penalty count in four matches and behind in 12 games.


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