The Lions played well, but consistently made errors that guaranteed that any and all promising positions were butchered and turned around to the Chiefs advantage. The error count was almost 3 to 1 against the Lions, which basically gifted the game and the bonus point to the host team.
It has to be said that the Chiefs and log leaders in the competition were the better side, but the Lions honestly made their job a lot easier than it should have been. The Lions simply failed to deal with so many things. They failed to deal with the kick offs, they failed to get play into the Chiefs half, they failed to clear the ball away from their 22 properly and failed to convert the territory they did have into points.
It was enough to make a person’s toes curl and teeth gnash to watch a superb turnover, only to have the ball so easily lost very shortly afterwards. To win the lineout only to have the ball recklessly chucked at the feet of the half back, to win a tense up and under contest and 2 passes later the Chiefs have a scrum inside our 22. There were so many good things done only to be undone with sickening regularity.
The Chiefs by contrast we tactically and strategically superior, identifying and exploiting holes with consummate ease and converting their advantage into points, which forced the Lions to chase the game from as soon as the 2nd minute.
Even though the Chiefs scored 4 tries, the Lions defense was not altogether at fault with all the Chiefs scores resulting from errors that they capitalized on swiftly and ruthlessly. The same story once again repeated itself where the Lions worked incredibly hard for their 3 tries but the Chiefs always crossed over with simple ease and effortless grace.
The Lions have had a problem at half back the entire season and have not had consistent quality service from any of the 3 players utilized so far. It always seems like whenever someone is replaced, the replacement looks much better and when we start with the new scrumhalf they are poor. This morning Ross Cronje was woeful, taking an age to release the ball and his passes always seemed to slowly float towards its recipient. The Chiefs were on our inside backs in a flash and quashed any play that may have been planned.
There were no signs of Cronje looking for a break or creating anything. He was simply a distributor and a poor one at that. This was terribly disappointing as it was hoped that based on his few performances already that he would be quite an impact player and a line breaker.
The forwards played exceptionally well in patches, with the set pieces – apart from the kick offs, much better. There were however far too many occasions where the ball was not protected properly and at times it took far too long for support to arrive. This often resulted in their teammates becoming isolated and if the ball was eventually recycled from that tense situation, it was slow and allowed the Chiefs to regroup and ready themselves.
Special mention has to be made for Lions Captain Josh Strauss, who put his body on the line time and time again. When he was given a break in the 70th minute, he looked battered and bloodied and you could see that his face was hiding the pain in his aching body. Franco van der Merwe, who has not been playing well of late finally had a decent match as did Grant Hattingh. It would also only be fair for me to mention Callie Visagie’s and to congratulate him on an error – free performance and for being involved in 1 or 2 steals.
For the Chiefs, Aaron Cruden was particularly savvy and put the Chiefs in good positions. He was well supported by Brendon Leonard who seems to be finding some of his old form.
If anything, the continuity of the Lions did look better than it has been in the past and the team showed glimpses of greater potential. The problem is that this comes off a very low base and any improvement from that is still well below par. But what it does suggest is that it is a platform from which they can grow. I still believe that there are 1 or 2 passengers (possibly more) in the set up, but I will not discuss these at this point.
It is a bit late for the Lions to still be on a learning curve and a disgraceful indication of where our standards have dropped to, that we can even be remotely satisfied with a result such as this, but there was improvement and under more difficult conditions than last week, the Lions played better.
Final score: Chiefs 34; Lions 21