“The first half especially was so poor, we just couldn’t get our game to flow, it was penalty after penalty. The Bulls would just bomb it back, we wouldn’t be able to control the ball so we’d scrum again. It was the most boring game of rugby I’ve seen in a while and it’s not good for the supporters either.
“It was just penalty after penalty, high ball after high ball. A disappointing match with strange decisions,” Ackermann said after the game.
The Bulls totally dominated territory in the first half as they racked up a 19-12 lead at the break. The home side then stretched that to 29-12, but the Lions dominated the final quarter and the introduction of Sevens Springbok Kwagga Smith at eighthman and fullback Andries Coetzee moving to scrumhalf saw them score two tries in five minutes to close the gap to 29-26.
But the impressive comeback was ended in the 79th minute when the Lions were penalised at scrum time, with the Bulls front row going up, and lock Grant Hattingh scored from the rolling maul set up from the lineout.
Ackermann said the decision by referee Marius van der Westhuizen puzzled him.
“I’d like to know what we did wrong at that last scrum when the score was 29-26, is the referee saying you’re no longer allowed to dominate a scrum?
“I think the referee wasn’t certain what was happening in the scrums, all the props were guilty of not binding properly, but it was one penalty for me, one penalty for you the whole match. It was frustrating because I think we had the scrums under control but still had a few penalties against us. Normally the apology comes on the Monday, but by then it’s too late. Something urgently needs to be done about the scrums,” Ackermann pleaded.
Bulls coach Frans Ludeke, on the other hand, felt the referee had made the right decisions.
“The scrums were a huge battle and there were problems with the binding and hinging of both packs. I thought all the decisions were accurate and both packs got penalised. It depends on how you view the scrums, Johan Ackermann probably feels they had an edge at the scrums and they didn’t get the benefit of that. But I thought we were better than them in all other facets,” Ludeke said.
The Bulls coach said he felt his team were turning the corner after losing three of their first four games.
“It’s a great feeling because we worked hard and the way we reacted because we were under pressure. It brought us together and we backed each other. I felt the gain-line and collisions were better in this match than in any other game and that’s why we got reward.
“The Lions like to counter-attack from broken field, they like to move the ball around from deep, that’s their strength, but our first-time tackling was great and if you can defuse that then you get a lot of energy from that. The hunger to succeed was massive and we’ll take a lot from this,” Ludeke said.
`Ackermann acknowledged that his team did not have the energy of the Bulls.
“We just need to look at ourselves and work out why the levels of intensity and energy weren’t there. Everything just looked slow in the first half, we didn’t react to the Bulls’ game and back ourselves to play more. There wasn’t enough ball-in-hand, not enough flow.
“We lost patience and suddenly had one-off runners against a hungry, desperate side, which doesn’t help. There was no tempo or speed to our game, they slowed down our ruck ball and the stop-start game suited the Bulls,” Ackermann said.