Courage and character the Lions have in spades, and these, together with a tiny tweak to their game in the 2nd half says Tank Lanning in his All Out Rugby #StatAttack, saw them turn the tide against a rampant Hurricanes team.
There were a few clutch moments in the Lions sensational 44-29 come from behind victory over the Hurricanes on Saturday. The tries on either side of the break were key, as were the contentious yellow card to Beauden Barrett, and second half form of the Lions scrum. But for me, the game changer came in the build up to Malcolm Marx’s try in the 55th minute.
Following an error-ridden first half-display, Jaco Kriel’s team were staring down the barrel of a crushing defeat having seen the Canes ease out to a 19 point lead and in full control of proceedings.
Like the week before, the home side were reticent with the boot, making only 8 kicks from hand to peel of just over 300 meters. Five kicks and 130m less than the visitors.
But in the second half that changed. They made 23 kicks in the 40 minutes to peel off close on 800 meters. And two of those kicks came in the 53rd minute, when Ruan Combrinck and Andries Coetzee, instead of running from deep in their half, returned positional kicks from Barrett. The Canes flyhalf blinked first and went for the chip. Combrinck collected it, and that lead to the Marx try.
Momentum shift of note!
The attack stats will show that the home side ran the visitors off their feet via 63 more carries that delivered over 300 more metres than the visitors with ball in hand. Having won close on 70 more rucks than the Canes, the home side were also clearly not shy to get through the phases.
But together with the more astute kicking performance that saw the Lions playing a territory based game in the second half, the Lions also won 7 mauls (to zero from the visitors), two of which delivered tries, which is indicative of their more direct approach in the last 40.
Goodnight Hurricanes …
The visitors definitely contributed to their own demise though. Going 22-3 up in the first 30 minutes saw them “Drinking from the Cool Aid”, and thus trying to run it from all parts. The travel, playing at altitude, and having to play with 14 men for ten minutes would also have contributed, but the result was 32 handling errors, 6 penalties conceded, and two lineouts lost.
Of concern to coach Johan Ackermann, though, as his side prepare to host the most efficient team in the comp, will be the Lion’s tackle success rate of only 79%. They missed 19 of the 82 tackles they were asked to make against the Canes. Against the Crusaders, that will get punished.
That can be worked on this week, though. In the interim, let’s just savour one of the great South African Super Rugby performances. There is no stat for courage, heart, team spirit or character, and those the Lions have in spades.
CLICK HERE to see the in-depth stats from the semi final.