The Lions started off their four week tour of Australasia on a bad note, going down 38-8 against the defending Vodacom Super Rugby champions, the Chiefs in Hamilton on Saturday.
The Chiefs were looking to kickstart their Super Rugby defence again and made a whopping 14 changes to their side ahead of the game, and it was easily enough to down a Lions side that often shows so much promise, but hasn’t got the firepower to compete.
Indeed, these four weeks could turn out to be long ones for the Johannesburg side as they continue to slide down the Super Rugby log after an exceptional start at home.
But since then they have seen defeats at the hands of the Sharks, Crusaders and Stormers and on each occasion have looked threatening in stages, but have watched as defensive lapses and soft moments have cost them the game.
On Saturday it was a 10 minute period just before halftime that the Chiefs ripped the game away from them, scoring three times as the Lions defence crumbled and the streetsmart champions exploited every opportunity that came their way, outscoring the Lions six tries to one.
Not even the return of Elton Jantjies could help the Lions as they started well – with Lionel Mapoe breaking out of defence to set up their opening three points – but then were on a downward spiral from then.
Cameo performances by the front row, and captain Warren Whiteley and a lot of courage at times kept the scoreline down, but you still had the sense that this was a mismatch from the start.
At times it was just a patient and concerted build-up by the Chiefs that probed and probed until they found the gaps that gave them the lead, with the Lions unable to sustain the pressure in their defensive line.
This was certainly the case in the first try where the Chiefs continued to pound the Lions defence until the gap opened, with flyhalf Gareth Anscombe going over almost untouched.
The Lions got a let-off when Nathan Charles seemed to run away to score, but the TMO ruled there was interference and obstruction at the previous ruck and the try was disallowed.
It didn’t matter as Tanerau Latimer swung the luck back in his team’s favour by scoring a minute later, taking the ball on the wing off the bounce and suspiciously looking like he knocked it on before scoring, something the TMO was happy with.
When Derick Minnie turned over a ball on the Lions line which spilt backwards and Charlie Ngatai toed forward to score the third try in 10 minutes, you knew it wasn’t going to be the Lions day.
From there it just got worse in the second half, as Pauliasi Manu crossed over from close range just after the break and the Chiefs motored ahead.
Courtnal Skosan did give the Lions a little bit to smile about when he scored in the corner, thanks to a great change of direction and width provided by Jantjies but it was a fleeting moment of hope for the Lions.
After that Bundee Aki and Tim Nanai-Williams crossed to give the Chiefs a big win, with the Lions licking their wounds from the game, especially with another three hard weeks lying in wait for them on tour.
Chiefs - Tries: Gareth Anscombe, Tanerau Latimer, Charlie Ngatai, Pauliasi Manu, Bundee Aki, Tim Nanai Williams . Conversion: Gareth Anscombe(3), Andrew Horrell.
Lions - Try: Courtnall Skosan. Penalty: Elton Jantjies