After getting up to beat the Sharks, Stormers and Kings on successive weekends, the Lions came crashing down to earth last night, suffering a heavy defeat to the Hurricanes – the home team’s third loss to a New Zealand outfit this season.
Having beaten the Chiefs in Hamilton in week two of the competition, the Lions lost to the Highlanders in Dunedin the following week and also lost to the Crusaders a month ago. They will now hope to at least beat the erratic Blues when they visit Joburg in a few weeks’ time.
The Lions were completely outplayed on their home turf last night, showing signs of fatigue, but also showing their depth in the front row isn’t all that flash.
Pieter Scholtz, at tighthead prop, is the Lions’ third-choice man for the position – after the side lost Julian Redelinghuys and Ruan Dreyer to injury – while Malcolm Marx has also been absent in the last two matches.
Ackermann’s team took a beating in the scrums and had no platform to work from – one of their major strengths – and, while they were decent in the line-outs, they were completely outplayed on the ground, while the visitors’ defence was in-your-face stuff throughout the 80 minutes.
This was, by some margin, the Lions’ worst performance in some time.
But let’s give credit to the visitors. They won their set-pieces, they won the collisions and breakdowns, forcing a number of turn-overs, from which they scored, and they gave the Lions no space or time to get their game going. It was, in a word, the perfect game by the Hurricanes.
To make matters worse for Ackermann and Co – as they enjoy their bye weekend – is that Elton Jantjies may have damaged a knee, the flyhalf leaving the field in the 55th minute.
The team will be sweating over his injury in the coming days.
Visiting wingers Julian Savea and Cory Jane both scored two tries, while centres Matt Proctor and Vince Aso also crossed for five-pointers.
It didn’t help the home team, who were completely out-played in the first 40 minutes, that two of the Canes’ tries came from intercepts; the Lions trying to force passes that simply weren’t on.
Prop Reggie Goodes also crossed for a try, after a clever move at the front of the line-out.
The Lions were a much-improved side in the second half after impressive hooker Armand van der Merwe got his team’s only points in the first half after going over from a driving maul, but it was always going to take a miracle for them to come back from a 31-point deficit. Lionel Mapoe got his team’s second try after a clever kick by Faf de Klerk and some nifty handwork on the touchline by Ruan Combrinck, while never-say-die flanker Jaco Kriel also crossed for his team.
It was an error-strewn performance by the Lions, but it is the visitors who need to be commended for their showing. They were excellent in all facets of their game and will beat a good number of sides if they manage to continue to show the form they displayed last night. For Ackermann and Co, the bye weekend could not have come at a better time.
Lions(5) 17: Tries: Van der Merwe, Mapoe, Kriel; Conversion: Jantjies
Hurricanes(36) 50: Tries: Savea (2), Proctor, Jane (2), Goodes, Aso; Conversions: Barrett (6); Penalty: Barrett
– The Sunday Independent
Original source: Hurricanes blow up storm at Lions