Port Elizabeth - Eastern Province Kings coach Carlos Spencer was a frustrated man after his team suffered their fourth straight loss in the Currie Cup, going down 41-22 to the Lions at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Saturday night.
Despite the losing streak, the Kings showed a massive improvement after they had been thumped by the same opponents 60-19 in their clash in Johannesburg earlier this month.
The Kings showed great fighting spirit and enjoyed a narrow 22-21 lead with 20 minutes remaining, before the Lions' experience and aggressive driving play earned them two final tries to seal the victory.
"I don't want to take anything away from the Lions but today [on Saturday]I don't believe that we were 20 points worse than them," Spencer said.
"And that is the disappointing thing I can take from the game. We will go back to the drawing board and work on the things that we need to and look forward to our next game against Western Province."
Stretch the lead
His words were echoed by Lions counterpart Johan Ackerman, who changed his tactics in the second half by opting to kick for goals from penalties, rather than going for touch as they had done in the first half.
"We used penalties to build momentum in the second half to stretch the lead and then we got a few tries at the end," Ackermann said.
"But I think the score was not a fair reflection. It was a tight game right the way through."
Spencer felt the Kings had shown better confidence after conceding two early tries to trail 14-0 after 17 minutes.
Whereas previously, the team had tended to fold in similar situations, this time they fought back to level the scores and trailed only 21-19 at the break.
"We spoke a couple of weeks ago about being in a situation of being seven or 14 points down and the guys losing confidence and self belief," Spencer said.
The word patience would be stressed to the team ahead of a tough clash with Province in Cape Town next weekend, he said.
"We always speak about six plus phases at the moment and there are times when we are not doing that and not putting enough pressure on the defence," he said.
Ackermann praised the Kings for their fightback after the opposition appeared to be dead and buried.
"At 14-0 down we thought were in the driving seat and then suddenly they came back and scored some great tries and it was game on at half-time."