Lions thump Sharks in Currie Cup Semi-final

The Golden Lions booked a place in the 2014 Currie Cup final when they beat the Natal Sharks 50-20 in their Currie Cup Semi-final at Ellis Park on Saturday.

The loss ends the Sharks reign as Currie Cup champions as they won the title in 2013 and the Lions will face the winner of the Western Province vs Blue Bulls Semi-final.

A superb first-half performance which saw the hosts take a 23-3 lead going
into the half-time break lay the foundation for the victory.

The Lions scored three tries in the first half before adding three more in
the second, with two coming late in the match while the Sharks managed three
of their own.

It will be the first time since their 2011 Currie Cup title victory that the
Lions will feature in the grand finale, while they brought the Sharks’ title
defence to an abrupt end.

While the Lions’ exciting outside backs generally enjoyed most of the shine,
it was their forwards that not only put in most of the hard graft but also ensured
them ascension in the first 40 minutes.

The front-row of Schalik van der Merwe, Robbie Coetzee and Ruan Dreyer were
demolishing at scrum time where they struck countless psychological blows.

Much of the credit — as it has been throughout the season — should go to
the Lions loose forwards and flanker Jaco Kriel in particular.

Kriel once again turned in a well-balanced performance where he scored one
of his side’s tries, while having a massive hand in another.

The hosts opened the scoring two minutes into the encounter courtesy of a Marnitz
Boshoff penalty conversion before the Sharks equalled through a Lionel Cronje
goal kick of his own in the ninth minute.

The Lions, however, struck a blow a minute later when inside centre Howard
Mnisi grubbered the ball through inside the Sharks 22, which he collected again
to score in the left-hand corner, with Boshoff missing the conversion kick.

Boshoff made up for the mistake with a penalty goal in the 18th minute extending
their lead to eight points.

To add to the pressures of a probing Lions side, Sharks lock Etienne Oosthuizen
copped a yellow card in the 26th minute for a tip tackle.

Three minutes from the half-time break Kriel made the breakthrough as he received
a long and flat skip-pass from Boshoff.

Attacking from the wing position Kriel made a beeline to score his side’s second
try of the afternoon with Boshoff’s conversion attempt going wide.

On the stroke of half-time Kriel broke though four tackles to get over the
gainline before offloading to Ruan Combrinck, who in turn found Ross Cronje
on his outside for the try.

The Sharks, however, showed great intent to bounce back from the 20-point deficit
as they launched an encouraging fightback in the second half.

Where the visitors seemed rudderless in the first half, relying on aimless
kicking to get out of their half, they were more direct in the second.

They finally found the breakthrough in the 49th minute, taking the final pass
from captain Tera Mtembu short of the line to score, with Lionel Cronje hitting
the left upright with his conversion attempt.

In the 55th minute Lions replacement loose forward Kwagga Smith was sin-binned
for taking Mtembu in the air.

The advantage did not seem to hamper the Lions as they managed to add another
try to add another try during Smith’s absence, with replacement hooker Akker
van der Merwe scoring after the ball went through a number of phases.

Boshoff converted and added another penalty conversion three minutes later
to see their lead increase to 25 points.

The Sharks then added two five-pointers within four minutes with Mtembu and
SP Marais going over for their tries to see the deficit shrink to 13 points.

Any hope by Sharks fans of

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