Rugby: Chiefs shocked by Lions

By Kris Shannon

Seta Tamanivalu slips a tackle during the Chiefs' encounter with the Lions in Hamilton. Photo / Getty
Seta Tamanivalu slips a tackle during the Chiefs' encounter with the Lions in Hamilton. Photo / Getty

Chiefs 32
Lions 36

The Chiefs seemed intent on increasing their degree of difficulty during today's encounter with the Lions in Hamilton.

All too often their own worst enemy against the Lions, Dave Rennie's side fell to an unexpected four-point loss to hit an early speed bump in the Super Rugby season.

After an impressive opening victory over the Crusaders, perhaps the Chiefs' task today had appeared too straightforward - an afternoon kickoff on a dry track against an opponent who had struggled past the Sunwolves in week one.

It's far too early and they're too well-coached for complacency to creep in but, whatever the reason, the Chiefs were determined to add a layer or three of adversity to their challenge.

As it happened: Chiefs v Lions

They scrummaged poorly throughout the match, heard the whistle of referee Andrew Lees much more often than they would have liked and spotted the Lions a couple of handy leads.

The second of those provided the ultimate test - overhauling an 11-point deficit with 10 minutes to play - and it was a test they barely failed, with a rolling Chiefs pack brought down inches away from a match-winning try in the final minute.

"I'm disappointed, obviously," Rennie said, "but we knew they were a good side, knew they were going to play, and knew they were going to attack our set piece. We probably didn't do well enough when we had a bit of ball and stretched them. We had them under pressure but not for long enough."

Indeed, the triumphant attacking play they produced in Christchurch was largely lacking today. Aside from a bright start that saw Tom Sanders cross and a double-strike that secured a rare lead midway through the second half, the Chiefs were ineffectual in possession.

Unusually unsettled with ball in hand, the home side were guilty of pressing instead of showing patience, though their issues weren't entirely of their own making. The Lions' defence, having suffered early, eventually forecast their opponents' every move and excelled at the contact area to win turnover ball.

And at the heart of it all was the scrum. The Lions were over-powering while the Chiefs were again under-whelming.

Their struggles prevented the hosts from enjoying enough front-foot ball and produced too many penalties, with the eighth of the first half allowing the Lions to lead by double digits at the break.

The visitors attacked more expansively as the game progressed and, having taken the Chiefs' best shot when Damian McKenzie and James Lowe scored well-worked tries, they roared back with a pair of their own to decide the match.

Making a bad day worse for the Chiefs was a rib injury suffered by Brodie Retallick, forcing the lock from the field early in the second spell. Rennie was uncertain about the severity of the blow but the way the All Black hobbled off suggested he would be a doubtful passenger for tomorrow's trip to South Africa.

"He just copped a bit of a shoulder in the ribs - it didn't look a hell of a lot looking at the footage but it obviously caught him in an awkward spot," Rennie said. "We're not sure if it's a broken rib or rib cartilage, so we'll assess that and make a quick decision."

Chiefs 32 (T. Sanders, D. McKenzie, J. Lowe, B. Weber tries; D. McKenzie 2 pens, 3 cons)
Lions 36 (M. Marx, C. Skosan, W. Whitely, R. Combrinck tries; E. Jantjies 4 pens, 2 cons)
HT: 11-19

Chiefs v Lions - Match centre

- NZ Herald

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