RYAN VREDE watched another ordinary performance from the Lions in their 34-21 defeat to the Chiefs.
It would be remiss not to note an increased intensity from the Lions. Indeed the plethora of fundamental errors that have marked their performances to date were reduced. But those plus points should hardly be comforting if you are a Lions supporter. They are comfortably outweighed by flaws – tactical and technical – that continue to undermine their progress.
Again, much of their play happened well behind the advantage line and when they did attack the gainline they were too easily repelled. Their trademark lateral attacks followed, with flyhalf Elton Jantjies looking every bit as toothless as his mentor Carlos Spencer did when he was playing behind a losing pack. It’s pertinent to remember that this was a largely second-choice Chiefs pack at that.
The hosts’ changes meant they lost some synergy and lacked the fluidity they have exhibited to date. Their attacks were largely disjointed and they profited from their opponents’ defensive and tactical ineptitude.
Defensively they were off-point as well and often looked vulnerable when the Lions earned the right to play expansively through purposeful phase play. Thankfully, from the Chiefs’ perspective, that was an all too rare tactic from the Johannesburg franchise. And herein lies the frustration with these Lions. They look a competent outfit when they play the percentages, indeed appearing to be one capable of seriously testing superior teams. Instead they remain adamant in the belief that they can run teams ragged.
Two of the Chiefs’ four tries came from broken field situations after one of the many rudderless attacks from the Lions resulted in their runners being isolated and turning over possession. The Chiefs had jumped to a 20-0 lead within 25 minutes and then led 34-14 with the final quarter to come, having by that time secured their four-try bonus point.
The Lions bagged their third try (each well constructed) through a powerful rolling maul with just over ten minutes to play to reduce deficit, but they never at any stage looked like they had the capacity to mount a comeback of the magnitude they needed.
And so the Lions’ mediocrity continues and the arguments from those who advocate for their retention in Super Rugby grows weaker by the week.