Ockert de Villiers, Sport24
Johannesburg – Lions coach Johan Ackermann has lamented his side’s bad habit of playing catch-up rugby as they succumbed to a clinical Brumbies side 30-20 in their Super Rugby clash in Johannesburg on Saturday.
The Johannesburg side needed one of their habitual second-half surges after the Brumbies held onto a 16-point lead at the half-time interval.
"We always knew that some days it will catch you when you are trailing the games and trying to catch up," Ackermann said.
"The guys showed a lot of fight but against this quality team that can play the tactical, kicking and hold-the-ball game, you are always going to struggle.
"We can’t leave it for the second half every week…so we need to look at the things we do.”
The defeat also saw the Lions squander an opportunity to top the South African conference but instead they remain in eighth place on the overall log and have to win their three remaining matches and hope for permutations elsewhere to slip into the playoffs.
"We will probably look back on it on Monday and say we had an opportunity to be up there," Ackermann said.
"There are habits we need to change and although it worked for us in a couple of games coming from behind but tonight we couldn’t pull it through."
The Australian tourists were in stellar form, putting in a well-rounded performance that could have been enough to beat any team in the competition on the night.
Although the Lions started off well with two successful penalties, the game took a sudden turn when the Brumbies scored three tries between the 18th and 26th minutes.
"We’ve challenged the guys to start well then we go up 6-0 and we do a few good things and suddenly the bad habits of losing the ball in contact and not looking after the ball at ruck time comes in," Ackermann said.
"They then punish you with two soft tries and they get a bit of momentum with you trailing at half-time."
The Lions’ lineout woes - that have been a constant headache this season - seemed to be functiong well on the night.
Brumbies flank David Pocock was a pest at the breakdown where he slowed down the Lions’ ball, while winning two crucial turnovers.
Ackermann said while the statistics would show his side were more than competitive, it was a mistake or two that proved to be game defining.
"We will get a surprise on Monday when we look at the stats because we will see that we’ve only lost one or two lineouts out of 13," he said.
"We didn’t lose a lot of lineouts but the one we lost we could have scored to get closer to them, the lineout where we got within five metres from the line was perfect but Robbie (Coetzee) knocked it on.
"The amount of lineouts that we lost because they contested weren’t that many, it is those one or two mistakes."
The Lions were the dominant force in the scrums throughout the night a big shove by the Brumbies in the final scrum at the death led to their fourth and final try of the match.