Lions rue poor second half
Johannesburg - Lions coach John Mitchell grumbled about his side’s second-half performance in their 23-13 Super Rugby defeat to the Crusaders at Coca-Cola Park on Saturday.
It was also a rare sight to see both coaches from the winning and losing sides looking as disappointed in their troops as Mitchell and Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder did after the match.
It was the Crusaders’ unconvincing performance that fuelled Mitchell’s torment.
"I thought they (Crusaders) deserved their win, they are an exceptional side, and they suffocated us and drilled our forward pack in the second half," Mitchell said.
The Lions had the better of their more esteemed opponent for most of the first half and enjoyed a 13-10 lead going into the half-time break.
The tourists, however, turned the tables shortly after half-time with a converted try and a penalty goal.
"I think the nine minutes after half-time was the turning point of the fixture, we didn’t control the possession and they had territory and we were inaccurate again lineout wise," said Mitchell.
"It is obvious to everyone that our lineouts aren’t working as well as they should at the moment."
While the Lions’ second half performance was atrocious, they showed great potential in the first half with the hosts dominating the tight phases.
The lineouts have been a concern for Mitchell’s men all season and after a decent showing in the first stanza, they once again lost the plot in the second.
"The effort is great but we’ve got three or four guys that have four caps in Super Rugby in the forward pack and they need to realise they need to step up," Mitchell said.
"Not delivering a lineout is unacceptable."
An equally forlorn skipper Josh Strauss bemoaned the manner in which the team let the game slip out of their control.
"I think in our first half we did really well and then those 10 minutes after half-time we let them in, that was a great blow for morale and it was a big struggle from there on," said Strauss.
"It was one or two silly penalties, three points, six points, and then just playing catch-up. You never want to do that, but we have to start showing heart for 80 minutes."
Among all the doom and gloom of injury blows and lost opportunities, the Lions received a glimmer of hope with the return of Lionel Mapoe and Elton Jantjies off the bench.
"Lionel (Mapoe) is certainly short of a gallop, it is pretty obvious to everyone but he’s got back to fitness and he should get sharper," Mitchell said.
"Andries (Coetzee) is showing exceptional ability, defensively he still has a lot to learn, and the experiential learning he is getting is phenomenal. It is great for him, he certainly is ambitious as a footballer, and he has a great kick on him out of hand so he is very exciting." Blackadder was also disappointed in his team's performance.
"It is a good start in the context that we got a win but we are really disappointed in the way we started and the way we performed tonight. Really, really inaccurate," said the Crusaders coach.
"I was a lot happier with the second half performance and that is why I am so disappointed. We needed to start better and it just took a bit of attitude adjustment at half-time."