Lions second half ends Hurricanes' tenure

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Saturday, July 29, 2017    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

The Lions will host next weekend's Investec Super Rugby semifinal against the Crusaders and become only the second South African side to play in consecutive finals, matching the Bulls' efforts in 2009-10 while it was also the Lions first win over the Hurricanes since 2007.

It was a fine recovery by the home side who were down 3-22, two minutes before halftime. They scored tries either side of the break and found a momentum that the Hurricanes were unable to counter, especially when conceding two tries and a penalty goal while Beauden Barrett was in the sin-bin for a breakdown offence.

In re-starting after Elton Jantjies' 4th minute penalty goal Beauden Barrett kicked the ball out on the full. However, from the scrum on halfway, Jantjies passed to grass and halfback TJ Perenara was onto the ball in a flash toeing it ahead, winning the race and nudging it into the in-goal area and diving for the opening try.

A Lions infringement at a tackle allowed the Hurricanes to set a lineout from the penalty. They worked a move with wing Nehe Milner-Skudder at first receiver and Beauden Barrett doubling around and into a gap at speed to fling a long pass to left wing Wes Goosen who crossed in the 10th minute with ease.

The Hurricanes enjoyed a dominance through the middle stages of the first half but impatience marred their efforts and ultimately proved costly. They didn't add to their score until the 30th minute when Lions halfback Ross Cronje lost the ball and flanker Ardie Savea picked up and ran 45 metres for a try.

Penalties, and lineout drives, finally produced the opening try for the Lions when under advantage, prop Jacques van Rooyen scored when driving over the line to make the score 10-22 at halftime.

The Lions were able to start the second half by continuing to apply their lineout maul and drive at every opportunity and halfback Ross Cronje was able to do what his big men couldn't by diving at the line to touch the chalk and with Jantjies' conversion, the Lions were back within five.

Penalties again punished the Hurricanes, and after they had done good work in denying van Rooyen a second try, they were penalised for off-side and hooker Malcolm Marx scored off the back of a drive. Jantjies' conversion missed when it bounced off the post.

However, the Hurricanes responded immediately when a counter ruck in front of the Lions posts produced the ball and it was moved through Coles, Milner-Skudder for Laumape to cross wide out to reclaim the lead.

But when wing Ruan Combrinck made a searching break into the Hurricanes 22m area he was lowered by Beauden Barrett but in extricating himself from the ruck Barrett's feet hit the ball, a penalty was ruled and he was sin-binned.

The Lions took advantage by getting back into the Hurricanes half and with one man down they wore down the defence and second five-eighths Harold Vorster scored when going through a big gap to reclaim the lead.

Just before Barrett was due back, the Lions crossed again when Jantjies profited from a goal-line ruck by crossing beside the posts to give the Lions a 39-29 lead.

With the Hurricanes needing to throw caution to the wind in the last 10 minutes, a long ball from Perenara was intercepted by replacement hooker Akker van der Merwe and he found flanker Kwagga Smith who scored to secure the final for the home team.

Scorers: Lions 44 (Jacques van Rooyen, Ross Cronje, Malcolm Marx, Harold Vorster, Elton Jantjies, Kwagga Smith tries; Elton Jantjies 4 con, 2 pen) Hurricanes 29 (TJ Perenara, Wes Goosen, Ardie Savea, Ngani Laumape tries; Jordie Barrett 2 con, pen; Beauden Barrett con). HT: 10-22