Chiefs coach Dave Rennie says that he knew what the Lions were capable of but felt his side were not up to scratch on the day.
The touring Lions made history when the Johannesburg-based franchise closed out an eight-try thriller for a 36-32 victory over the Chiefs at the FMG Stadium, Waikato, on Saturday, after leading 19-11 at the halftime break.
Never before in the history of Super Rugby had the Lions managed a win at the Waikato venue, and given the manner in which they achieved their landmark feat they would also have won over some of the hearts of the home crowd in this high-scoring thriller.
Chiefs coach Dave Rennie said after the match that he knew what the Lions were capable of
“We knew they are a good side and we knew they were going to play,” said Rennie.
“We knew they would attack our set piece, so we probably didn’t do well enough in the first half. We had a bit of ball and we stretched them a few times, had them under pressure, but not for long enough.”
Rennie felt his side had conceded far too many penalties to secure a win. He was also concerned about problems at scrum time.
“We gave away too many penalties which then put the spotlight on us in lots of other areas,” said Rennie.
“We’re always going to argue around scrums,” Rennie said.
“Pauli [Pauliasi Manu] got penalised a bit for angling in. He tried to tell the referee it was the tighthead angling in our hooker.
“We have just got to do a better job of defending that, and we’ve got to adjust.”
Lions skipper Warren Whitely, speaking at the post-match presentation, said several times he was “speechless”.
“I’m a bit speechless at the moment,” said Whitely.
“They put so much pressure on us right until the death and we managed to pull it off in the end. We weren’t happy with last week’s performance, so we worked really hard on spreading it from side to side and I think it worked.”
Lions coach Johan Ackermann was elated with the outcome, but was relieved that his charges had held out for the historic win.
Both sides managed four tries but, in the end, the boot of Lions flyhalf Elton Jantjies made the difference for an eventual four-point victory margin in a match where the lead changed hands five times.
The Lions’ defence faced a testing period in early second-half play when the Chiefs clawed their way back from a 24-11 deficit to a 25-24 lead just ahead of the hour mark but the tourists responded with a telling fightback which produced tries by Warren Whiteley (57 min) and Ruan Combrinck (65) in the space of seven minutes.
In the final four minutes of the match, the Chiefs enjoyed two line-outs some five metres out but the Lions stood firm each time to thwart the home side’s try-scoring efforts from rolling mauls.
Jantjies and his halfback partner Faf de Klerk were at the heart of the team’s inspired performance which ensured that the Lions continued on their winning ways, after last week’s 26-13 triumph over the Sunwolves in Tokyo.
The Lions’ power at scrum time was always in evidence, although this aspect was merely one of many admirable facets that contributed to a fine all-round performance by the Johannesburg tourists.
Next week, the unbeaten Lions will be hosted by the Super Rugby champions, the Highlanders, at the Forsyth Barr Stadium, in Dunedin, New Zealand, in a Round 3 encounter.