JON CARDINELLI reports on the Brumbies’ 34-20 lashing of a rudderless Lions mob at Ellis Park.
How deep does this hole of despair go? With a testing tour of Australasia looming, Lions fans may find out soon enough.
The downward spiral continued on Friday with the most insipid of performances, the Lions’ complete tactical naivety was only overshadowed by a hopeless defensive effort. The Brumbies may have come to Ellis Park with a sound game plan, but the manner in which the Lions played into the visitors’ hands was beyond stupid.
34-20 is a scoreline that flatters the Lions. The Brumbies missed a series of penalties and conversions over the course of the game, forgoing 14 points in all. The Australians also conceded two tries in the final quarter when the win and the bonus-point try were both secured. In short, the Lions deserved to lose by more.
There is absolutely no consolation in losing in this manner. The Lions have had their injury problems, but playing at home they would have been expected to produce a braver showing. It wasn’t so much a disappointment from a skills and tactical point of view as it was a depressing display of defence. At times, the Lions simply waved a hand as a Brumbies player breezed over the advantage line.
It took some time for the Brumbies to get going, but they deserve credit for sticking to their game plan. The tourists used the altitude to great effect, launching accurate high bombs and raking kicks which ultimately pinned the Lions in their own territory.
The Lions’ response was unforgivably poor. They attempted to counter-attack, but that only played into the Brumbies’ hands considering the visitors’ powerful breakdown players. They tried to kick it back but only succeeded in kicking it down the throat of the Brumbies’ back three.
They coughed up possession when jumping for the high ball. There were instances when they missed the garryowen altogether and allowed the ball to bounce free. Embarrassing is too kind a word. Humiliating is closer to the mark.
While the Brumbies failed to realise the full value of these tactics early on, they kept the Lions under pressure. Their goal-kickers may not have been on song, but their forwards dominated the collisions and their backs showed terrific skill in the tackle to create linebreaks and tries on the outside.
The visitors were helped by a woeful Lions defence. The hosts started poorly in this area, and by the end of the game it was clear that they had lost all interest. Spare a thought for the hapless few Lions fans who forked out good money to see their team raise the white flag early in the second half.
The result sees White’s Brumbies finishing their South African sojourn with seven log points, a great haul considering one of their matches was played at Loftus Versfeld. Friday’s bonus-point win also ensures that they consolidate their position at the top of the Australian conference.
By stark contrast, the Lions’ performance showed why they are they are at the bottom of the South Africa conference, and barely above the Blues at the foot of the overall log.
They face a long and potentially torturous journey Down Under unless they can find a means of improving their porous defence. They will also need to adopt a more territory-based game plan if they are going to have any success at the back end of the tournament.