Lions trump the Kings
It had the make up of a bad WWE feud. One side is replaced by the other in the world’s premier rugby tournament, they have a fall out, and now it’s time to square off in the ring.
It was a match that all had looked forward to, for various reasons. Lions fans wanted nothing more than to get revenge for their Super Rugby exit, Kings fans wanted their team to show that they are capable of competing at the highest level, and the neutrals wanted a great game of rugby.
A turnout at Ellis Park of 18 779 confirmed that this game meant the world to the Lions fans. Dubbed the “Grudge Match” by many, the stage was set for a true rugby spectacle, and it didn’t fail to deliver.
From the off both sides seemed determined to run each other to shreds. We have come to expect this of the Lions, but the Kings surprised me by seemingly wanting to take the Lions on at their own game.
Both sides struggled to get to grips in the early exchanges, with silly mistakes creeping into both camps. The Lions didn’t take long to find their attacking groove, but their efforts were stifled by their rather average handling early on.
The Kings struggled to find any sort of momentum, the Lions’ 22m area was treated like the ugly step child nobody wanted to go near, and they were made to pay by going behind to a Lions penalty.
Out of the blue the Kings hit back with a superb try, sweeping the ball through numerous phases to complete a counter attack worthy of praise. This would be the last time they would lead in the match though, as the Lions hit straight back – and didn’t turn back.
The Kings will be worried by their forwards’ inability to square up physically to the Lions. No team can be competitive in Super Rugby if they cannot halt the oppositions’ forwards, and against sides like the Stormers, Bulls, Chiefs, Highlanders and Crusaders they might take some bad hidings if things do not improve.
They allowed the Lions to canter in for three tries from rolling mauls, and conceded numerous penalties at scrum time – and a tighthead to boot.
Their backs lacked any cutting edge in attack and seemed directionless at times. Their forward pack being on the back foot throughout didn’t help matters, but they need to be more creative in midfield.
While there are many areas to work on, and I could go on for ages boring you by listing them, I’d rather focus on the positives.
The Kings have finally seen what it will take to compete at the highest level. Their match against the Force in two weeks’ time will be an immense leap in quality, and they have now had a chance to run out against a decent side to test themselves.
Lessons will be learnt, there is no doubt about that. Whether they are able to improve is another matter entirely.
The Lions are now 2/3 against South African Super Rugby opposition, and their march towards a Super Rugby comeback continues relentlessly. No doubt that we will be seeing these two sides battle it out in the promotion/relegation matches later this year.
The Kings, I believe, are in above their head, they are attempting the impossible, and a clean sweep against them this year might be on the cards.
As a true South African, though, I sincerely hope this is not the case.