Nick Mallett

‘14-man Lions did well to get close’

The Crusaders celebrate their win The Crusaders celebrate their win

What former Bok coach NICK MALLETT had to say on SuperSport about the Super Rugby final between the Lions and Crusaders at Ellis Park.

'I feel incredibly sorry for the Lions, the spectators and the integrity of this game. There’s honour in defeat occasionally and this was an honourable defeat by the Lions.

'Unfortunately, that was a red-card offence by Kwagga Smith. The laws state that if you take a player out in the air and he comes down on his head or lands on the neck and shoulder area, it is a definite red. My point is, this is still a game of rugby and I think perhaps we should look at the player getting sanctioned individually and not the whole team. Perhaps they should think of replacing a red-carded player with someone off the bench after 10 minutes. We’re all feeling very, very sorry for the Lions and their supporters.

'The Lions never went away. At 22-3 it looked very difficult for them. They were giving penalties away at the scrums, their lineout wasn’t functioning particularly well and they were struggling against the suffocating defence of the Crusaders.

'It was looking as if the Lions were going to concede 35 to 40 points, so huge credit to them for hanging in there, holding on to the ball and playing with a lot of heart and determination to get those couple of tries to bring it back to an eight-point game at the end. And one has to say, had Kwagga not gotten that red card, the game would have been decided in those last 10 minutes, with the Lions in with a good chance to win. The Lions did unbelievably well to get as close as they did.

WATCH: Highlights of Lions vs Crusaders

'The Crusaders encapsulate how the All Blacks play. They have a great leadership group, they understand exactly how to handle and soak up pressure, and they were devastating when they managed to turn over ball.

'Interestingly enough, the Lions had the ball for a number of phases and Elton Jantjies then got tackled. In that turnover, the ball ricocheted back and forth. First, it went forward off Andries Coetzee’s foot, it then came off the foot of a Crusaders player into one of his own teammates in front of him and bounced up in the air into David Havili’s hands and they got away for a try. If the referee had been better sighted, it should have been accidental offside and a scrum down for the Lions. It’s the little things like that which cost the Lions seven points.

'And then you get the second try when everyone said the Crusaders played so well. When you go back to the origin of that try, Jantjies kicked the ball out on the full. We always talk about the halfback making as few mistakes as possible. That was an unforced error that no team can afford to make against the Crusaders. From that centre scrum, they got the momentum and scored. But we have to remember why they got that scrum. Those are little things the halfbacks must iron out before the Rugby Championship. To beat the All Blacks, the Boks have to play as the Lions did against the Crusaders, but they have to eradicate those silly little mistakes and turnovers.

'The joy that the Crusaders showed at the end of the game comes from the three finals they lost prior to this one. It’s the pain of not winning those finals that gave them the joy after winning the title at Ellis Park. It was just an extraordinary outburst of pleasure. Perhaps it’ll be the same for the Lions after losing in two finals. Hopefully, they get to experience that same joy of winning the title one day.'

Photo: Gavin Barker/BackpagePix

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