Lions coach Ackermann sees red over send off

Super Rugby
by AFP

Lions coach Johan Ackermann criticised the red card his loose forward Kwagga Smith was given in the first half of a Super Rugby final defeat by the Crusaders in Johannesburg on Saturday.

He said it not only left his team's hunt for the title in tatters, it also ruined the final for a crowd of more than 60,000 who came hoping to send off their inspirational England-bound coach with a trophy.

Smith was sent off late in the first half for playing fullback David Havili in the air, with the 14-man Lions eventually losing 25-17.

"I suppose I stand by the comments I made before about it being better for the player to be disciplined afterwards, especially if it was not dirty play," said Ackermann.

"I just feel that over 60,000 people did not pay to come watch a 15-versus-14 game. The law is one thing, but common sense is another, and then there is the physics that is involved.

"When one guy jumps in the air and goes forward, that should be taken into account.

"I suppose the New Zealand people will be happy that Jaco Peyper is now a good referee, when last week they said he wasn't," Ackermann said.

Peyper controversially yellow-carded Hurricanes star flyhalf Beauden Barrett last weekend and the Lions scored 17 points while he was absent in a semi-final triumph.

But the Gloucester-bound coach told reporters how proud he was that his team did not fall to pieces thereafter, with only an heroic defensive effort by the Crusaders stemming a fierce comeback by the Lions.

"The result did not go our way, but I asked the guys at half-time not to give up, to keep fighting and they did that.

"It took a lot out of 14 men for them to come back and I'm very proud of them - they showed a lot of character. It was phenomenal, (and) coming from 25-3 down to 25-17 is what will stay with me."

The Lions coach added, however, that the Crusaders were worthy champions.

"They played good rugby all year - they have been consistently superb.

"And they did a lot of homework and contested in the lineouts well, they stopped our lineout drives close to their line." - Johan Ackermann.

"They are a quality side and you could see that they stayed calm as we got closer to them.

"They are well-deserved champions. There will always be a lot of 'what-ifs?', but on the night they deserved to win," Ackermann conceded.