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Page last updated at 17:31 GMT, Saturday, 6 June 2009 18:31 UK

McGeechan relief over vital win

Lions number eight Andy Powell struggles to escape the Cheetahs defence
The Lions struggled to hold onto ball in contact situations

Lions coach Ian McGeechan took solace from a third victory in South Africa despite almost seeing a 20-0 lead become a defeat against the Cheetahs.

"We got ourselves into a good position and didn't develop it as we could have done," he said after their 26-24 win.

"The breakdowns became a bit of a lottery and took a lot of momentum out of the game. It was a good challenge.

"We knew the games were going to get increasingly tougher, and you can never under-estimate how important a win is."

To get away with the win was important

Paul O'Connell

McGeechan praised the contribution of Wales fly-half James Hook, whose 16 points from penalties and two conversions ultimately made the difference between victory and defeat.

"In all three games our goalkickers have been significant," he added. "I thought the half-backs played well and gave us a chance to play in the right areas."

Lions skipper Paul O'Connell was disappointed at the way his side lost the battle at the breakdown, the Cheetahs forcing more than half-a-dozen turnovers.

"Maybe we stopped putting in as many numbers at the breakdown - you need numbers there, to be low and aggressive, and we didn't do that," said the Ireland lock.

"Turning the ball over killed us. They can take momentum out of your team and give the other team belief.


"We started off very well. After Wednesday's game [when the Lions beat the Golden Lions 74-10] people perhaps thought it was going to be more of the same, but the Cheetahs went up a gear.

"I am disappointed for the guys. We've had a great buzz, and the guys were very enthusiastic, but for nine of the guys it was their first game in a while, so to get away with the win was important."

The sin-binning of flanker Stephen Ferris after 22 minutes proved a major turning point, as the Lions conceded two tries in his absence.

We had a mindset of attacking the Lions at the breakdown, and it went well

Cheetahs coach Naka Drotske

"Decisions will go against you in a rugby game," O'Connell added. "We needed to be a bit more clever than we were when Stephen was in the bin."

Cheetahs coach Naka Drotske, the former London Irish hooker, had promised his side would be "up for the game" and was proud of the manner in which they recovered from 20 points down to give the Lions a major scare.

"The way to play against the Lions is to be in their faces and not to allow them momentum. The guys were really up for it," he said.

"Being down 20-0 I didn't think we could come back, to be honest. We gave away two soft tries, especially the first one, but we missed three or four penalties as well.

"I thought our three loose forwards were superb. We had a mindset of attacking the Lions at the breakdown, and I thought it went well."

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see also
Cheetahs 24-26 Lions
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Cheetahs v Lions photos
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Hook told to take control at 10
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Golden Lions 10-74 Lions
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South Africa announce Lions squad
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2009 Lions: Squad & results
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