Two key areas Lions want to strengthen
STATS SPOTLIGHT: Happy but there are still two areas that are causing stress for Lions coach Ivan van Rooyen.
The side advance to the Challenge Cup with a 30-25 win over the Dragons on Sunday.
The Lions were well on their way to a comfortable victory with their 27-5 lead at half-time against the Dragons.
The Johannesburg-based team dominated possession and territory as they left their opponents in no man’s land.
However, the domination was short-lived as Van Rooyen’s troops struggled in the second stanza.
In the first half, the territory and possession were nearly balanced, but the second half saw the side from Johannesburg starved of ball possession and forced to defend for the vast majority.
They conceded three tries to none in the second half and concluded the match with 39 percent possession and 27 percent territory.
The states showed they made 71 carries compared to Dragons’ 120 and only 266 metres compared to Dragons’ 349.
In defence, they made 172 tackles and missed 17, while they also conceded 11 penalties.
“We are obviously happy with the result, especially in week three of the tour which is normally mentally the toughest week on tour,” Van Rooyen said.
“I’m also happy with the way the team reacted and adapted after the late venue change
“The second half was again a situation where we conceded both penalties as well as little territory dominance. Areas where we will keep on working for solutions and the ability to see the momentum back into our favour.”
Sharing the coach’s sentiment was Lions forward JP Smith.
The big prop made an explosive run down the sideline before sending the perfect pass to a flying Edwill van der Merwe to run 40 metres to score.
“Everything came together in the first half,” said Smith.
“We had a great start, the set-piece worked and the game management was unreal. We need to take that into the second half and just play with confidence and not defend the points.”
Smith made mention of the extreme weather conditions the team has had to deal with while on their four-week tour of Europe.
“I don’t think people can comprehend what the weather was like. No excuses, but it is something we are really not used to,” the prop said.
Van Rooyen also explained that his side struggled against a very strong wind.
“In cold, wet and windy conditions like we are experiencing on this tour so far, we need to capitalise on playing with the wind more and find a way to gain territory to create attacking opportunities against the wind,” he said.
The Lions shift their focus to the United Rugby Champions next where they will conclude their four-week tour with a match against Connacht at The Sportsground in Galway.