The Lions ended their Super Rugby tour on a predictably low note after slumping to a 10-36 loss at the hands of the Crusaders in Christchurch on Friday.
Cash van Rooyen’s troops were certainly competitive yet at times they seemed intent on survival and containment.
It didn’t help that their decision-making on the night was frustratingly inconsistent.
The Crusaders, coming off the bye, lacked their highest cutting edge though they still dominated possession and territory and conjured up moments of attacking brilliance that was more than enough to subdue their opponents.
Who was the star in this match?
The stocky but powerful Crusaders winger Sevu Reece enjoyed a fine night, particularly as ball-carrier. Yet the real star was outside centre Braydon Ennor, who not only ran a brilliant line for the opening try, but proving a creator all round. He ran the most of any home player and produced three linebreaks.
Key moments and themes
- The Lions were forced into defensive mode as early as the fifth minute follow Ennor’s try. It had been a beautiful, intricate set-move from the line-out which exposed the visitors’ ability to deal with finer attacking movements. More importantly, it dealt a psychological blow.
- One of the more frustrating aspects of the Lions’ play is not that they weren’t competitive, but how their decision-making and execution are woefully inconsistent. There were some good reads on defence and at the breakdown at times, only to be undermined by silly moments at other stages.
- While there were signs that they wanted to be adaptable, the Lions simply lack the physical presence to play a more attritional game. There were periods where they did have a bit of attacking momentum, but it was wasted on predictable phase play that was dealt with fairly easily by the Crusaders.
- In contrast, the defending champions were simply a class above, even if they weren’t at their best. Numerous handling errors stifled various attacking moves and they didn’t always have it their way in the scrums. However, their sheer class in varying their play meant they could comfortably puncture the Lions defence once they’d softened them up with phase play.
Crusaders – Tries: Sevu Reece (2), George Bridge (2), Braydon Ennor. Conversions: Richie Mo’unga (4). Penalty: Mo’unga.
Lions – Try: Ruan Combrinck. Conversion: Elton Jantjies. Penalty: Jantjies.