Hi guys. It is a pity the Lions lose this weekend. They still by far our best South African franchise but unfortunately just lose focus and accuracy at critical times against the Blues.
When we talk about moments that swing matches we do not always mean a big thing like a miss kick or a miss tackle. No, the real poison is usually just many small mistakes that leads to big problems. Let us look below…
The Lions is ahead by 11 points with 6 minutes left and they make a big carry through Marx. They running the ball and that is fine, because three Blues is waiting back for a kick, so there is space. But the first problem we see is that Kwagga does not seal properly over the ball. As the openside, this is his job, but he is unfortunately very inaccurate and go right over the ruck. Dyanti come in to be the 9.
Now we see the consequence of Kwagga’s poor seal. Dyanti have no protection, so the Blues 8th man Ioane is able to attempt a counter ruck. The problem of that is that Orie and Smith came up for a big carry but had to stop because the ball was not available.
A big secret of the Lion phase play is how they time their runs. Unfortunately, as we see, this is a delicate thing, and by Ioane slowing the ball this carry have been neutralised.
Now Ross Cronje arrive after being held back at a previous ruck. With Orie and Smit static, he decide to play the ball wider to Coetzee. But the problem now is that this carry by Orie and Smit was actually quite important – it was meant to pull in Blues defenders before the Lions goes wide. Specifically take a look at the Blues lock Scrafton.
Coetzee get the ball and play out to the second pod of Adriaanse and Erasmus in midfield. But there is problems developing… Because the Blues has enough men in midfield defence (after Scrafton join them) Sonny Bill Williams is free to shoot up and play the umbrella role.
And here is the critical moment. Adriaanse get ready to play out the backdoor to Elton, with Mostert running a decoy line to “fix” the edge defender. But because the Blues has enough men, the edge defender is no longer Sonny Bill, it is the prop Tamoaieta. So Sonny Bill is free to leave his post and attack the backdoor option, Elton.
And this is exactly what happen. Williams shoot and catch Elton deep behind the advantage line. With Sonny Bill in his face, Elton try a high-risk manoeuvre to bat the ball over his head to Vorster, but Nanai intercept and the Blues will score.
So where does it leave us? We see how small errors of technique and judgement can lead to big problems. Maybe we can say that, with the Blues needing points and playing so aggressive, the Lions was better off playing tighter and more clever?
Or if Kwagga sealed the ball properly then Dyanti can pass to the first charging carriers Orie and Smit to suck in more Blues defenders.
Maybe a team leader must intervene and tell the team not to risk this kind of wide play unless quick ball and good odds has first been established.
Perhaps Elton could have seen the situation developing in midfield and communicated to Adriaanse to rather carry.
Anyway, it is easy to say from my couch! I do not necessarily want to point fingers (all players and all teams makes mistakes) but I want to show how small things can cost you in a big way.
We trust the Lions has a strong group and team ethic to come back from this no problem, and to bring that focus and execution to every small action and decision.
DISCLAIMER: English is Oom’s third language, after Rugby and Afrikaans.