The Lions will look back a rue a few errors that they created on their own. It was end to end stuff and it will take some performance from the teams that today to beat the show the Crusaders and the Lions put on yesterday. With Johann Ackermann admitting the side just have to deal with bruises and niggles the match up against the Sharks next week will definitely be one to look out for. The replacement will receive the most praise from me. They not only swung the momentum in favor of the Lions but they brought the fighting chance back for the Lions. Hooker Armand ‘Akkers’ van der Merwe was massive showing brute strength, a turn of pace and a hunger like no player out there. Not that the players lacked hunger, but Akkers was on fire. The determination within the squad saw the Lions not give up, but they kept fighting to the end. The Lions discipline during the game was exceptional. Conceding just 6 penalties all game compared to the Crusaders’ 12.
I will query two things from the referee; how have the Crusaders conceded 5 penalties in the 22, including 3 in a row in one passage of play and escape without a single card? This is in the red zone. Of the five conceded; 4 between the 5 meter and the try line.
The officiating at the mauls and breakdown looked sketchy and unconvincing with the Crusaders getting away with several offside breaches and some questionable entries.
However, like any team you must be able to adapt and deal with the controllable variables that you can control.
There were a few notables when it comes to the Lions performance that will need to improve in the games ahead:
Territory- The Lions won the territory and possession battle during the game with both aspects being an average of 62%. The inability to maximize on these opportunities will hurt the team and coaching stuff. The Lions also managed to beat 29 defenders in an attacking master class at times. A few key players had a difficult game and will be the first to admit when they look at the game again. Faf de Klerk had a game to forget, as did Howard Mnisi who will be out to fix the wrongs in the game against the Sharks. Playing in the right areas and picking moments when to risk it will be key. The Lions are bold and at some point they over did which resulted in an aimless kick by Faf de Klerk that ended in a try. The territory game & the decision making will need to sharpen up ahead of more testing clashes.
Breakdown- The crusaders dominated the breakdown. They managed to win 97% of their rucks and with the two Lions rucks they won (turnovers) in the first half managed to score two tries in the 1st minute and in the 17th minute. A similar tale to that of the Highlanders match. The New Zealand side looked to keep the ball alive and when possible avoided the rucks. They lost the solitary ruck and defended for the most part of the game.
Defensive effort- Despite missing a mammoth 29 tackles compared to the Lions 17. Howard Mnisi’s two missed tackles led to Crusaders breaching the try line twice off the movement. How tight the inches were. The Crusaders managed to concede just 4 tries compared to the Lions’ 6. It was a combination of the Lions’ inability to finish off chances and impressive scramble defense that helped the Canterbury side.Both sides will realise to be champions a lot of work will need to be done on their defensive efforts and they can’t afford to concede so many points despite creating a spectacle of a match.