Lions vs Waratahs: Five things we learned

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

The Waratahs' 2018 campaign has ended in the semi-finals.

What are we talking about after their 44-26 loss to the Lions?

1. Season over but positives aplenty

This time last year, the Waratahs were licking their wounds after their worst season in history. In 2018, they’ve finished as the best Australian side and the first Aussies in a semi-final since 2015. Even as this one began to slip away from them, with a man in the bin, they continued to fight. It’s a far cry from a side that alienated its fans with a lack of hunger on the way to a four-win season.

2. Brumbies loss comes back to bite

There are a whole host of positives that will come out of the Waratahs’ 2018 season washup but there is one ‘What if?’ that can’t be avoided. NSW had a chance to secure hosting rights for a semi-final but lost that chance with a shock loss to the Brumbies. Had they held their nerve against their fierce rivals, it could have been them hosting a travel-weary Lions side on Saturday night. You never know how the alternative path would have turned out but a home semi-final sure would have been nice for the Waratahs.

3. Forwards overpowered after fast start

 

🔥 start not enough for @nswwaratahs in Johannesburg. #LIOvWAR

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The Waratahs had pledged to fix their slow starts this week and they did that in Johannesburg. It wasn’t enough in the end to stop the rampant Lions on their home turf and that largely came down to the forward battle. The Lions dominated in the scrum and even though the Waratahs managed two lineout steals, they could not control the Africans' trademark maul. NSW's forwards have punched above their weight all season but they just couldn't match it for 80 against one of Super Rugby's most abrasive packs.

4. Lions’ key pillars stand up

The Lions stars were all firing against the Waratahs in Johannesburg. Malcolm Marx’s reputation is growing with each game. The hooker equalled David Pocock’s season turnover record in another monstrous performance on Saturday night. His mate in the backrow, Kwagga Smith, was deft in attack and effective in defence. Elton Jantjies was on top of his game at flyhalf after a patchy season to this point. All of those conspired to push the Waratahs out of the

5. Third time lucky for the Lions

The Lions’ win puts them in the Super Rugby final for the third consecutive year but they will still have a cloud hanging over them on the way to Christchurch next week. Two deciders against Kiwi sides in the past two years have ended in heartbreak for the Lions and a trip to face the Crusaders at home will be their toughest challenge yet. They have looked ruthless on their home turf but it will take an extra-special effort to beat a team that has lost just three times in two seasons.