The Lions delivered another poor defensive display as Drew Mitchell scored four tries in the Waratahs’ 73-12 win in Sydney.
This fixture was talked about as the Lions’ best chance of victory, even though they had never beaten the Tahs in Sydney. That hope was short-lived, however, as after just 32 minutes, the hosts wrapped up the bonus point. The Lions have now conceded 29 tries in the tournament, which tells the story of a shocking start to the season.
The Tahs were under pressure from their supporters and the Australian media, but their fans had plenty to cheer about as they crossed the line 11 times.
Carlos Spencer gifted the Tahs their first two tries, the first when the Lions won a turnover but opted to run from deep. This is the approach coach Dick Muir loves to see, but it cost the Lions as the Tahs won the ball back, and from an ensuing penalty, Drew Mitchell tapped and dived over the line. Earlier in the move, Tonderai Chavhanga had also rushed out of the defensive line handing the Tahs the momentum.
The Waratahs winger went from hero to villain momentarily as a mistake behind his own goal-line gifted Chavhanga a score. The Tahs led 7-5 after seven minutes, but then Spencer was again at his worst. His kick was charged and gathered by Dean Mumm who cantered over with the cover defence non-existent.
The Lions’ defence was typically porous as they missed 12 tackles inside 25 minutes. The Tahs were hardly made to work as the Lions handed another Australasian team a bonus point – the third time they’ve conceded five log points in 2010.
Tom Carter crashed over before Wandile Mjekevu’s mistake (which was similar to Mitchell’s) saw Lachie Turner claim the fourth try.
The Lions were intent on running, but clearly lacked confidence, as Spencer and Earl Rose hacked away possession aimlessly. The Tahs were buoyed by the visitors’ mistakes and looked to counter from deep, and Berrick Barnes also drove the Lions back with some lengthy touch-finders.
Muir finally lost patience with his halfbacks as JP Joubert and Spencer were replaced by Jano Vermaak and Burton Francis at half-time. The latter pair didn’t lack effort, but without the platform from their pack, they battled to make an impact.
The Lions have successfully brought other teams, such as the Brumbies, down to their level, but the Tahs kept their structure and scored a further six tries in the second half. The Lions opted to run everything in the final 40, and Mitchell capitalised from their numerous errors to complete a personal tally of four tries.
Muir will undoubtedly find ‘positives’ in this display, but the Lions are going nowhere slowly. The seven-time champions Crusaders lie in wait, and if the Lions’ woeful defence continues, they can expect another hiding.
By Grant Ball