‘Too many skill and breakdown errors’: Lions cornered by crafty Munster

URC defeat leaves them in desperate scramble for a place in the top eight

28 April 2024 - 14:16
By Liam Del Carme
Bok lock RG Snyman proved a menace against the Lions at Ellis Park as Munster inflicted a 33-13 URC defeat on the hosts.
Image: Sydney Seshibedi (Gallo Images) Bok lock RG Snyman proved a menace against the Lions at Ellis Park as Munster inflicted a 33-13 URC defeat on the hosts.

Munster were smarter, sighed Lions coach Ivan van Rooyen after his team continued their season long roller coaster ride with a 33-13 defeat in the United Rugby Championship at Ellis Park on Saturday.

To be fair to the visitors, while the Lions were full of energy and carried the ball with much fervour in the second half, they are in a different league than their hosts.

The streetwise defending champions were clinical when points were on offer and inflicted another defeat on the Lions who will have to end the regular URC season with a bang to make it into the top eight.

“Too many skill and breakdown errors,” Lions coach Ivan van Rooyen pointed to his team's shortcomings.

The frustrating thing for Van Rooyen was Munster did not do anything the Lions didn't expect or train for.

Once they got the lead Munster applied the squeeze at the breakdown, in defence and with contestable kicks. They also stole the march on the Lions in the scrums.

Van Rooyen felt they created more than Munster, but having more ball does not automatically translate to points. The Lions went headlong up blind alleys and they could not hang on to the ball long enough to make an impression on the scoreboard.

Munster, crafty and resourceful as ever, played the game on their terms, at times carefully and craftily slipping into energy conservation mode in the highveld's thin air. They did not have to play like the wind all the time, they simply had to draw it from the Lions' sails and seize moments that mattered. Simply put, Munster have a much better grasp of what is required to win a rugby match.

“You could feel them dictating the tempo of the game, whether they were sitting or playing,” Van Rooyen pointed out before adding “every bounce also seemed to have gone their way.”

Indeed there were moments of misfortune but it is the mark of the champion team that they bend the arc of luck their way.

He didn't have a cigar like Hannibal Smith from the TV series the A-Team but Munster coach Graham Rowntree sported the same satisfied grin. “We had a plan and we stuck to it,” beamed Rowntree. “I was really pleased with our power game, around scrum and maul. It was a big effort from the lads two weeks at altitude coming away with 10 points, not many people have done that. In fact, not many people have, not where we come from. Delighted!” he reflected on his teams wins over the Bulls and the Lions.

While Munster is handily placed in the competition's top three the Lions will have to perform a few circus acts to get into the top eight and the play-offs. They will have to walk a tightrope in their remaining matches against Cardiff, Glasgow Warriors (both at home) and the Stormers in Cape Town.

“It is the cliché of sticking to processes. We need to minimise errors,” said Van Rooyen about the improvements needed.

“We basically have to win all three, probably. It is so close, eight, 10, maybe 15 points may be required. If we do what we have to at home that Stormers game at the end may get real spicy.”