The British and Irish Lions bemoaned the “poor discipline” that saw flank Stephen Ferris sin-binned and cost them 14 points in their fortuitous 26-24 win over the Cheetahs in their third tour match on Saturday.
Both captain Paul O’Connell and defence coach Shaun Edwards made reference to the Ferris sin-binning, while head coach Ian McGeechan was disappointed his team could not kick on from the 20-0 lead they established in the first quarter.
While the B&I Lions travel to Durban – for their match against the Sharks on Wednesday – with their 100 percent South Africa tour record still intact, they acknowledged that they came very close to defeat.
Tries by Ferris and Keith Earls, along with two conversions and two penalties by James Hook, saw the tourists establish a 20-0 lead in as many minutes.
However, Ferris got yellow-carded for a professional foul in the 23rd minute and by the time he returned tries from Cheetahs flyer Danwel Demas and prop Wian du Preez had narrowed the scored to just 20-14.
Two more Hook penalties proved to be the deciding scores in the game, as a late 80-metre intercept try by Corné Uys brought the Cheetahs to within one score from a win.
Edwards admitted the sin-binning was the “turning point” and said the Lions lost their way.
We got off to a flying start, but then someone got sin-binned and they got two tries against us during that period,” Edwards said.
And Edwards admitted that being ahead by only one score was too close for comfort.
“The interception try made it too much of a grandstand finish for my liking,” he said, adding: “The sin-binning was a huge part of that.”
O’Connell also spoke of the yellow card and the importance in the final scoreline.
“We started very well and played some good rugby early on, but went to sleep at one time and the Cheetahs came back very strong,” the Lions captain said.
“But it was poor discipline that got them back into it,” he said, adding: “”I’m disappointed with the performance after the way we played in the first 20 minutes.”
McGeechan also spoke of the fact that the team let a good early lead slip and then nearly came unstuck in the end.
“We got ourselves into a good position and didn’t develop it as we could have done,” McGeechan said.
“The breakdowns became a bit of a lottery and took a lot of momentum out of the game.
“We knew the games were going to get increasingly tougher, and I think it was a good challenge.
“You can never under-estimate how important a win is to the squad.
“The start was very good, but it became stop-start after that, which disappointed us. I don’t think the ball in play time was very high.”
The one big positive to come out of the game was the performance of flyhalf James Hook, who kicked 16 points and did not miss a shot at goal all game – which ultimately proved to be the difference.
“In all three games our goal-kickers have been significant,” McGeechan said.
“I thought the halfbacks played well and gave us a chance to play in the right areas.”Tweet