Sunday, 28 June 2009

2nd Test: British Lions 25 - 28 South Africa

The Springboks edged the British Lions in a thrilling test match at Loftus Versveld yesterday to clinch the 2009 series. Both teams were out to win the match, and as a result it was played with intensity, and at times fearsome ferocity, which was borne out by the number of injuries sustained. In the end though, the Springboks created a few more scoring opportunities, and in the words of Springbok captain John Smit in the post-match interview, "it was ironic" that the game was won at the death by a kick - a reference to the 1997 Lions series when Jeremy Guscott secured the series for the Lions with a drop-kick.

Forward battle

The British Lions made no secret of the fact that they were out to shore up the scrum after the 1st test horror show, and they certainly achieved their goal. This was brilliantly illustrated in the 18th minute when Adam Jones gave "Beast" Mtawarira a touch of his own medicine in a South African 5m attacking scrum. Apart from that incident the scrums were fairly even - a good contest - until uncontested scrums early in the second half. The Lions' defence of the rolling maul was also a lot more effective than last week, and the Springboks were unable to profit from it. The Boks probably had the edge in the lineout, and managed to poach a couple of Lions throw-ins, but the loose exchanges perhaps belonged to the Lions, with more turnovers.

In general it was a very even contest, which made for a very exciting test match. There was certainly a lot of niggle in the game from the very start when Springbok openside Schalk Burger, playing in his 50th test match after an injury layoff, was picked up apparently gouging at the eyes of Luke Fitzgerald and rewarded with a yellow card. Welcome back Schalk, the Boks have missed you! Apart from that there was a bit of pushing and shoving here and there, but nothing too serious.


A number of players were injured during the game, notably both Lions props going off within minutes of each other early in the second half. Of the two, Adam Jones looked more serious, with a shoulder injury. It was a pity, as this resulted in uncontested scrums for the rest of the match, and is possibly one of the reasons the Springboks were allowed back into the game and get more front-foot ball.

At the hour mark, Springbok coach Peter de Villiers turned to his bench again, with much more success than last week. But Danie Rossouw didn't last long as he was involved in a horrible collision with Brian O'Driscoll that left him unable to stand up. Sadly for BOD, he was not unscathed and had to leave a few minutes later, only a couple of minutes after his midfield partner, Jamie Roberts. The resulting reshuffle of the Lions backline no doubt also didn't help their cause, either on attack or defence.


Stephen Jones had his kicking boots on as usual, and kept the Lions scoreboard ticking over with five penalties, a drop goal and a conversion. His opposite number, Ruan Pienaar, had quite the opposite game, missing several kicks, and suffering the indignity of the home supporters chanting "Morne, Morne, Morne", calling for his substitution. Morne Steyn, when he was finallly brought on, put in an impeccable performance and secured victory for his team with a 55m penalty kick in injury time. I wouldn't be at all surprised if he starts at flyhalf in the 3rd test.


Both teams played the match with great commitment, and a 25-all draw (which looked on the cards until that final penalty) would perhaps have been a more satisfactory result, and would have left the Lions with something to play for in the final match. Sadly, it was not to be, but the Lions can hold their heads up high, having pushed the World Champions all the way.

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