Johannesburg – A dubious try awarded to Glasgow Warriors aside, it was yet again a case of coulda, shoulda, woulda for the Emirates Lions this past weekend … and they know it.
“There were two or three reasons why we are frustrated in terms of not getting the result,” said Lions head coach Ivan van Rooyen after the match.
“Physically, we were really good, territorially we were good; and that is why we feel the frustration. It is almost a case of us losing the game and not necessarily that they (Glasgow) beat us. Last week, Scarlets did beat us …”
It is true.
The Lions fluffed a handful of chances on Saturday in their third-round encounter against the Scottish franchise in the United Rugby Championship. In those moments when they were on the charge in the strike zone - either through poor handling, a failure in skill, or their discipline - they couldn't finish with clinical precision.
At least two line-outs went astray, unforced knock-ons halted their momentum, while they were guilty of not always protecting the breakdown. They also opted against taking points in a tight game, only for their decision to back-fire due to the aforementioned infringements.
The loss of Jordan Hendriks last weekend, and then also Eddie Fouche during the build-up to the match also played its part. Nevertheless, EW Viljoen - preferred at fullback - had a solid outing in the No 10 jersey, if not spectacular, and despite that particular set-back, the Lions remained in the game to the very last minute.
There were also improvements, as pointed out by both Van Rooyen and skipper Burger Odendaal, but always framed around the disappointment of the defeat.
Said the captain of the performance: “Especially, (on Saturday night) EW slotting in at 10, I think the guys around him really did well to stick to our kicking game, playing the tennis battle with them.
“Again, there were errors when we got into their 22. I think it showed that when we kept the ball in hand, we put them under pressure but it is just that one split-second we just can’t finish it off.
It was a sentiment echoed by the coach.
“The biggest improvement is that defensively we fronted up,” said Van Rooyen.
“We stopped their momentum; we were scrambling that first 20 minutes and the guys really adapted well. As the conditions got tougher and tougher, our physicality improved. Losing two 10s and EW slotting in, like Burger said, our kicking game worked well.
“We managed to reapply pressure back onto them. Unfortunately, our conversion rate in their 22 was not good enough, and there were one or two crucial skill errors in the last 12 minutes that were expensive.
The Lions have won one match on this tour, and sit 11th in the combined standings with six points, marginally ahead of the other three SA teams. The nations' sides had a much better showing in the tournament this week through victories for the Bulls and Sharks and a draw for the Stormers.
The Lions, however, will have to show just how much they have learnt in the last three weeks when they play the table-topping Ulster of Ireland this Friday, which will arguably be their toughest assignment yet.