Cape Town – The Lions have now lost three Super Rugby finals in a row, but they left it all out on the field in Christchurch on Saturday when they fell to a 37-18 loss to the Crusaders on Saturday.
The Lions were given no chance before kick-off, but they kept fighting even after going 20-3 down and gave themselves a sniff in the second half before the Crusaders put the game to bed.
From the very beginning of the match, the Lions dominated territory and possession and had numerous scoring opportunities, but they could not make them count when it mattered most.
The Crusaders, on the other hand, made the most of their attacking chances and scored points when they were on offer, punishing their visitors for any mistakes.
It all contributed to a key learning for Whiteley and his charges.
“If there’s one thing we can learn from tonight it’s that, in finals, defence wins you games,” Whiteley said afterwards.
“The Crusaders showed that tonight. They defended extremely well and capitalised on every opportunity they got.
“We had opportunities … they were just better. Unfortunately, it just didn’t go our way.
“This whole week we believed we could win this game and during the game we also believed … we were in it.
“It just felt like every time we scored, the Crusaders would score shortly after and I think that’s also a sign of a championship side. They defended and defended and defended.”