Ross Roche

By Ross Roche

Senior sports writer

Lions must find consistency if they want to lift trophies

The Lions now shift their focus to their Challenge Cup last 16 clash against Benetton in Treviso on Saturday.

The Lions will be desperate to shake off the dreadful inconsistency that has plagued their season after they once again followed up a brilliant performance with a poor one to be comfortably beaten 36-21 by Ospreys in their United Rugby Championship (URC) match on Saturday.

The Lions went into the clash in high spirits after they put on a fantastic showing to thrash Connacht 38-14 with 14 men in their URC match in Galway a week earlier, but they followed it up with a horrible effort to lose to fellow playoff chasers Ospreys in Swansea.

They could point to an inconsistent performance from ref Andy Brace, who seemed to give all 50-50 calls to the home team, while also allowing them to get away with a number of infringements.

Missed chances

But the Lions made enough opportunities to stay in the game and even win, but a slew of handling errors and being stripped in the tackle on a number of occasions cost them dearly.

They did show some fight in the second half to battle back from 29-7 down, making it 29-21 with five minutes to play, but in the end it wasn’t nearly enough.

Lions coach Ivan van Rooyen admitted his side created enough opportunities to win the game, but their impatience and poor performance at the breakdown cost them.

“In the first half we had three or four clear-cut opportunities. Maybe there was some impatience from our side. One or two more phases or rucks and we could have created that opportunity,” said Van Rooyen.

“We were also too late to the breakdown (on a number of occasions). We didn’t clean the breakdown nicely and we allowed them to get in there, and that cost us.”

Out of top eight

The loss now sees the Lions slip out of the URC top eight to 11th on the log, while the table became even more congested. They were level on points with Connacht and Edinburgh in 10th and ninth; one point off Ulster and Ospreys in eighth and seventh; and three points off Benetton in sixth.

They now shift their focus to their Challenge Cup last 16 clash against Benetton in Treviso on Saturday, where they have to win to keep their chances alive in the competition.

Benetton were themselves on a poor losing run before the weekend, but they picked up a vital last-gasp win over Connacht to give them confidence and momentum ahead of the knockout match.

The Lions also lost their URC game in Treviso 15-10 earlier in the season and they will have to put in a much improved effort from that game if they want to knock out the hosts and keep going.

“We weren’t good enough today (against Ospreys). We will have a good look and focus on us to see where we can get better,” Van Rooyen said.

“When we get it right we look formidable. It’s just about being more consistent in key areas.”

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