Chiefs Cruise As Lions Lose Again
The Chiefs celebrated their return to Pukekohe with a 34-21 bonus point victory over the Lions on Saturday to move back to the top of the overall standings.
The Lions scored three good, well-constructed tries against the four rather easy scores they allowed their opponents.
Handling errors, a failure to fall back on defence and poor kicking relief when it mattered cost the Lions dearly.
There were 12 turnovers and close on 20 handling errors in the match and against a top side like the Chiefs this made an upset result highly unlikely.
Although the Chiefs were 20-7 up at the break, it could so easily have been different. And although the home side thoroughly deserved their victory margin, it was to a large extent built on unforced errors by the Lions and good exploitation thereof.
The Lions knocked on from the kick-off and this set the pattern for the first half with 11 handling errors contributing to their own loss of impetus and also providing the Chiefs with good go-forward ball. The second half also produced some unacceptable handling lapses.
Seven minutes of pressure by the Lions on the Chiefs line came to nought and the reality was that the Chiefs who, after an early burst, were 6-0 up after 15 minutes with most of the attacking play coming from the Lions.
In this period the Lions had a TMO decision against them when Grant Hattingh went over after a series of good, patient rucks.
While the Lions’ one-on-one defence was up to standard, their defensive structures as a team let them down and both the home side’s first half tries could and should have been avoided, the one coming from a defence that was out of position and the other when Andries Coetzee was put under pressure with on-passing forcing his kick to be charged down.
Good scrummaging and a lineout that - at last - functioned properly were however offset by the handling errors. There was also too little variation as the Chiefs defence pre-empted their attacks and waited for the attackers.
At 20-0, the Lions seemed down and out. But then, the last 10 minutes of the half was the Lions' best period as they were in charge and also held the ball better.
They got a well-deserved try for their efforts when blood replacement Cobus Grobbelaar went over from a lineout maul.
The second half was a near replica of the first. The Lions played well, had the Chiefs on the back foot and the home side took full advantage of the too frequent turnovers, turning over defence into attack and scoring at the other end.
The Lions scored a second try when Josh Strauss went over after 54 minutes to creep to 27-14 behind, but another loose ball helped the Chiefs to a bonus point and a 34-14 lead.
The Lions had another good spell, scored a second maul try from a lineout with Grobbelaar again dotting down and had high hopes of a bonus point try.
But the old errors crept in again and they spent the last few minutes mostly in their own territory despite threatening to break out until handling and turnovers cost them.
SARugby.com Man of the Match: Aaron Cruden, for his assured performance and 19-point contribution.
Chiefs - Tries: Aaron Cruden, Craig Clarke, Lelia Masaga, Brendon Leonard. Conversions: Cruden (4). Penalties: Cruden (2).
Lions - Tries: Cobus Grobbelaar (2), Josh Strauss. Conversions: Elton Jantjies (3).