Saturday, 20 June 2009

1st Test: British Lions 21 - 26 South Africa

Willie John McBride was right: the forward battle, and in particular the scrum, would be of vital importance in the battle between the British Lions and the Springboks. Unfortunately for the Lions, it was South Africa that heeded this advice and put in a dominant display to out-muscle the Lions in the first test, taking it by 26 points to 21.

Rusty Springboks?

All the pre-match speculation about the Boks lacking match practice was dispelled from the kick-off - in fact they looked very sharp and scored an excellent try by skipper John Smith within the first five minutes. The Springbok forwards were dominant throughout the first 50 minutes, winning turnovers on the Lions scrum and lineout several times. This culminated in another superb try shortly after half time when the Springbok pack repeatedly employed the rolling maul to great effect, with number 6 Heinrich Brussow eventually crashing over for their second try.

Missed opportunities

For the British Lions, the match was mostly about missed opportunities. Stephen Jones missed two kickable penalties in the first half which would have kept his team in touch. And by the end of the game, the Lions had missed out on three golden try-scoring opportunites, thanks to some excellent last-ditch goal-line defence by the Springboks. If even one of these chances had been converted into points, the outcome of the match could have been very different.

Spirited fightback

After Brussow's try 10 minutes after half-time, the Lions looked dead and buried at 26-7. But then coach Peter de Villiers started bringing on his substitutes and the Springboks lost momentum. This, coupled with some excellent attacking play by the Lions almost saw them complete a remarkable comeback to steal the game in the dying minutes. But the Springboks managed to hang onto their lead and claim the first test, despite looking shaken towards the end of the game, and conceding a string of penalties in their own half in their efforts to deny the tourists. The home team will do well to ensure they play for the full eighty minutes next week.

Lions positives

The match was certainly not without positives for the Lions. They managed several excellent line breaks, mostly instigated by centres Jamie Roberts and Brian O'Driscoll who have forged a formidable partnership in the few short weeks they have been playing together. If the Springboks were dominant in the forwards, the Lions were equally so in midfield - this is surely an area the Boks will be desperate to address in the run-up to the second test next week.

The Lions will take a lot of heart from their performance today, and will be deperate to square the series at Loftus next Saturday. It's certainly within their capability, but will be no easy task at the Blue Bulls' fortress.

1 comment:

  1. If they don’t win the next test are the British and Irish Lions headed for extinction?