Wellington Lions haunted by poor decisions
Wellington will not break their provincial title drought till the players better manage their natural instinct to attack, Lions coach Chris Boyd says.
Boyd has encouraged an expansive style all season, but had urged his players to weigh "risk versus return" before Saturday's 33-22 semifinal loss to Auckland at Westpac Stadium.
So it was with some frustration that he watched them run the ball from near their goalposts midway through the second half when leading 22-14.
"We talked about we felt more comfortable playing, but we've talked a lot all year about risk and return," Boyd said. "The return on that play versus the risk was probably [not good]. They erred in their judgment there."
While flanker Ross Filipo threw the intercept pass to Auckland centre Malakai Fekitoa, it was a collective decision to run from their own line with the outsides calling for the ball.
"I think we really just made some bad decisions and we haven't made those in the last little bit. I don't think there was extra pressure or hype, just that when we got out there, there was some bad errors," Boyd lamented.
It's been a recurring theme for Wellington since their last NPC success in 2000.
The Lions have now lost four NPC finals (2006, 07, 08, 09) and three semifinals in seven years.
With a couple of better decisions, Boyd believed the semifinal would have gone Wellington's way.
"At 22-14, at that stage I thought we might have been able to take better control of the game," he said.
"Particularly seeing their 14 points were made up of a try where [Pauliasi Manu's] foot was out, so that would have made it 22-7 or something.
"But at the end of the day, we had a couple of howling mistakes that cost us dearly, really."
In contrast, Auckland coach Wayne Pivac revealed his side had changed their mindset completely for the semifinal.
"All season we haven't put much work in to be honest to our defence because of short turnarounds and various other things," he said.
"We've had the attitude that if we scored more tries than the opposition we'd be right, but for this week we put a lot of emphasis into our defence and particularly our line speed."
Boyd said the most disappointing aspect of the loss had been that they had not played anywhere near their potential.
"We've played with glimpses, we've had some good patches, but we haven't played as consistently well as I thought we might," he said of the season.
"I'll be honest, I thought if we'd played well we might have won [the title].
"It wasn't to be and it's a bit of a wasted opportunity as far as I'm concerned.
"They [the players] have a pretty good sense that they've let themselves down . . . You can take some comfort in these games, even though the stakes are high, when you lose, but when you lose and play poorly you are disappointed."
It's unclear whether Boyd will be back next year because he is considering a move south to take an assistant's role with the Crusaders.
A Super Rugby role would likely preclude him from coaching the Lions.