Ross Roche

By Ross Roche

Senior sports writer

Disappointed Lions to reflect on shortcomings after Benetton loss

Head coach Ivan van Rooyen added that individual errors at crucial moments proved costly for the Lions.

A disappointed Lions team are going to reflect on their shortcomings after a poor 27-17 Challenge Cup loss against Benetton in Treviso over the past weekend, ahead of a difficult United Rugby Championship (URC) run-in.

Despite the hosts being reduced to 14-men in the 44th minute of the game and then playing with 13 men for 10 minutes after a late yellow card, the Lions were unable to make their numerical advantage count as they crashed out of the competition with a whimper.

ALSO READ: Lions brace for forwards battle against Benetton in Challenge Cup

Benetton hooker Giacomo Nicotera was given a red card for a dangerous cleanout at a ruck early in the second half, following which the Lions levelled the scores at 17-all with a converted try to flyhalf Jordan Hendrikse straight after.

At that stage things were looking good for the visitors and the odds were certainly in their favour going into the final half hour of the match.

Instead it was Benetton who struck back with a converted try and penalty to take a 10 point lead after 63 minutes.

The Lions were then given a further boost in the 67th minute when Benetton centre Malakai Fekitoa was given a yellow card for a high tackle, giving the visitors the perfect opportunity to battle back against 13 men.

But they were kept scoreless over the final 13 minutes as the hosts secured a top win under very difficult circumstances.

100% commitment

“The guys’ attitude and commitment in the game was 100%. We started off well, we stopped their maul and physically we were up for it. I can’t really fault anyone on their effort physically,” admitted Lions captain Jaco Visagie after the match.

“I think we could have tactically been a lot better, especially after they got the red card and the yellow card later. So we will have to go and look at the clips and see where we could have been better.

“Obviously there had to be space somewhere and I think we just couldn’t get there. They have a bunch of internationals in their side who could close off the game well. It’s a tough one (to take) and we are very disappointed not to make it further in the competition. “

Head coach Ivan van Rooyen added that individual errors at crucial moments proved costly for the Lions as they failed to match their previous run to the quarterfinals during last season’s competition.

“After a good physical showing from us, unfortunately individual errors at crucial times stopped us from capitalising on the numerical advantage. We couldn’t look after the ball for long enough periods to get the result in our favour,” said Van Rooyen.

Read more on these topics

Challenge Cup Ivan van Rooyen Lions rugby team