After about the 10th minute there was some hope, a little bit of expectation and best of all – sustained good play and pressure by the Lions. However after about the 17th minute I was about ready to stop watching.
What can be said? Yes the Lions played well, yes their lineouts were excellent, mistakes were still evident but there was certainly improvement. Even after adding all of that together they still conceded 4 tries, did not pick up any bonus points and were in truth comprehensively outplayed.
The contrast between the 2 teams was stark where the Reds were able score long range tries, splitting the Lions lines from deep within the home team’s half, from set pieces and from broken play the Reds just found holes and ran into them with pace, supported well with pace and finished with style and precision. The Lions on the other side of the spectrum bashed away and plodded along from ruck after ruck and scrambled phase after phase making little ground and not appearing to be overly threatening in their approach.
The Lions struggled to protect the ball adequately at the breakdowns and suffered a number of ill – timed turnovers as a result and if the ball was recycled it was slow and predictable.
The Lions really did have the Reds on the ropes during the early stages of the match, but crumbled so quickly after conceding their point advantage and never really challenged the hosts afterwards again. Much was said by the commentators about the Lion’s character and feistiness, but I believe that we were witnessing a broken and dispirited side simply going through the motions and obediently playing out the inevitable conclusion that they have become so accustomed to.
There must be merit mentioned for the Reds. They were scintillating when they needed to be, particularly with Will Genia who outclassed and outpaced anyone from the Lions. His running game as well as his kicking game was superb but he was well supported by a host of eager backline players who fed off his cunning and wryly exploitations.
The match marked the highly publicized return of Quade Cooper, who did make a strong impact during his 40 minutes of play and I’m sure that the medical team must be extremely relieved to have him back safe at half time with a little game time under his belt ahead of their very important clash against the Brumbies next week.
It is unclear what will be on John Mitchell’s drawing board for next week – set pieces, handling, none of these really make an impact and were probably just used as excuses for poor performances in the past. The game plan itself is not working, even when we are controlling multiple phases of play and dominating possession we are simply not being able to convert this into points.
One thing that was disturbing for me was that the Lions do not seem to be looking for gaps and instead prefer to look for the contact. This would be okay if we were able to protect the ball properly and recycle it quickly, but instead we make contacts seemingly for no other reason but to make contact. There is no evidence of a plan or semblance of a purpose by repeating this as often as the Lions do. There is certainly no noteworthy outcome either.
Perhaps something that can be considered is his teamsheet as the reserves did manage to create an impact when they were on and the team did come across as having a bit more forward – going momentum. Their influence may have been somewhat exacerbated by the Reds already shifting down a gear or 2 for they were already in cruise mode after securing their 4th bonus point try shortly after half time.
I’m not sure what we can look forward to next week – maybe some nice tries by some of our backline players for a change.