August 11, 2013 in Uncategorized
How does one review a match which nobody really expected you to win but then came close to winning, had your chances of closing it out but lost by a single point? Does one look at how well the team did considering where they’re coming from or does one focus on the loss that could have been a win?
In my post on Lions Pride, The Lions have a mountain to climb, earlier in the week I compared the experience levels of the Lions players with that of the Cheetahs players to show how tough the road ahead is and based on that the Lions shouldn’t even have been in the game.
Did you know that Stokkies Hanekom, at the age of 24, played his first Currie Cup Premier Division game on Saturday and only has a total of 16 first class games to his credit? In total the Lions fielded seven Currie Cup Premier Division rookies and, apart from Martin Bezuidenhout, Derick Minnie and Dylan Des Fountain, the rest of the starting XV have only played 58 Currie Cup Premier Division and 14 Super Rugby games.
It is in the light of this inexperience that I then look at the game and say “well done boys!” And I don’t say this to excuse the mistakes that were made on the day but to put the performance in perspective considering they played a side that, for the most part, fielded players who had helped them to a sixth position on the Super Rugby log this year.
Through the year we’ve talked about the Lions allowing opponents to cross the advantage line too easily, creating good front foot attacking ball and the first half on Saturday was no different. The Cheetahs enjoy the bulk of possession but the Lions gave away territory far too easily with a passive defence only to stop them deep in our own half. The Lions’ defence was good, for the most part, but if you allow your opponent to attack at will the gaps and the mistakes will come and it did.
Robert Ebersohn’s try came from a chip into space with no Lions players covering while Hennie Daniller came close to copying Ebersohn’s try. Boom Prinsloo’s try came from a poorly defended driving maul with too many players hanging off and not getting stuck in trying to stop it or at least slow it down.
Whenever the Lions had possession and strung a few phases together they looked dangerous and that kept them in the game through penalty points and lead to Stokkies’s try in the first half.
The second half started the same way, with the Lions conceding territory too easily until the got their act together and starting controlling possession and territory, unfortunately not before conceding two tries which made me question the TMO and ref. The TMO obviously didn’t think the Cheetahs player knocked the ball back illegally and can someone please explain to me how gaining 15 metres in your opponent’s 22 isn’t enough advantage for a knock-on. But enough of that, in the end the Lions still had the opportunity to win the match and didn’t.
Two storming tries, one by MOTM Wille Britz and one by Ruan Dreyer brought the Lions close to victory. Unfortunately coach Ackers’s decision to replace Marnitz Boshoff became crucial to the Lions’ loss with Elton Jantjies missing a penalty and a conversion.
I have a problem when coaches make replacements by the clock rather than by the state of the game although I might be doing the coach an injustice. At that point the Cheetahs were starting to close out the game, leading by eight points, and he might have felt the Lions needing a different dimension on attack, which Jantjies definitely brought playing closer to the advantage line and giving the Lions more front foot ball, but unfortunately his confidence in his goal kicking seems to be shot, quite evident with him trying to punch a low straight kick for the conversion.
It isn’t easy to single out players when the team performed well as a unit but I feel that Willie “Maanhaar” Britz deserves special mention. Especially in the second half his lineout work created problems for the Cheetahs and his play around the park was uncompromising. He fully deserved not only his try but also the MOTM award.
In the end the loss leaves a bitter-sweet taste in the mouth.
This inexperienced Lions side showed they have the heart to compete and to grow through the competition and, having looked at the other games, they don’t have to stand back for any of the other teams.
But ai, a win would have been so much better.
Originally posted on Lions Pride