British & Irish Lions 28 South Africa 9
Justice 4 all was done in last night’s Springbok v British and Irish Lions test match. It may not have been a classic confrontation like last week’s blockbuster at Loftus but it was another torrid encounter which the Lions won, inflicting a serious defeat on a South African team that had an experimental look to it. A test match nonetheless, where more than a few pundits thought the Springboks would prevail.
I thought some important Afrikaner had died when I saw all of them come out wearing white armbands; however, this outpouring of grief was only about Bakkie’s demise, not from this mortal coil but from mortal combat due to a prior conviction, or a ‘previous’ as Arfur’ Daley would call it. This symbolism seemed a little bit over the top but hey, there is a poodle faker currently in charge so anything’s possible. We haven’t heard the last of this.
The British Lions (why bother with the Irish bit, it’s way too long and everyone knows they’ve always been part of it….touchy feely politically correct bullshit…a bit like that bloody NZ anthem where they’ve added the Maori bit, completely unnecessary and boring as batshit. I’m sure it’s designed just to make it bigger than ours) were in need of a win; they haven’t had one since the 2001 First Test in Australia and it was starting to look a little embarrassing for Northern Hemisphere rugby. Not quite as embarrassing as a recent poll of NRL players, where two thirds of them said they were ashamed to be associated with the rugby league code, but embarrassing nonetheless.
This was indeed the last throw of the dice for the Brits and probably their best chance of winning a test in South Africa, now that the poodle faker had come up with his cunning plan. The Lions needed to rock’nroll with some rip snortin’ rugby at Coke Stadium in front of 58,000 fans. And snort they did. They completely dominated the first half scoring two great tries to the diminutive Shane Williams, who looked in baie lekker form. An intercept try to Ugo Monye pretty well sealed it early in the second half and, combined with a Bokke lack of rhythm and a little later, a breakdown in discipline, they essentially cruised to a win.
You’d all like to know how Phil Vickery got on again against The Beast, wouldn’t you? I reckon Vicks had a top game for someone so recently pensioned off. He was dynamic around the park and at the breakdown, even having a few trundles with the ball in hand as well. There is something between the cauliflowers after all, ‘cos his scrummaging game has improved markedly. The first scrum saw Chilli crabbed and popped, with The Beast heading skyward as well. It was like chalk and cheese from that first test. I was actually wondering whether Fole’s hadn’t been over there incognito, giving them some proper instruction. The Lions had the better of the scrums but there were heaps of resets, collapsing, feigning, not binding and The Beast is serially boring!
The lineouts were, in the end, even on the throw. There has been a big improvement in the Brit lineout over the three tests, with O’Connell in particular securing plenty of ball last night. The breakdown was really interesting as there were lots of turnovers from both sides, in fact about a dozen each. As you’d expect, Brussow was dynamic in this area but Martyn Williams, Croft (when he was on) and a few others were damn effective as well. The Lions were very physical at the breakdown this week and looked to have won that battle. There were again plenty of injuries and replacements mainly due to the heavy hitting.
It seemed to me that the Bokkies just weren’t in the right frame of mind last night. They had won the series and this was a dead rubber. That, combined with the 10 changes left them being somewhat unstructured and they didn’t have the same level of cohesion as last week. I thought their loosies were their strength with Brussow, Juan Smith and Kankowski being standouts.
I have to again mention (for the last time) the halftime entertainment Kobus Headroom, Cherry Guscott and Nasty Booter. Those headphones make Kobus look like he’s just rocked up in the Tardis, via Torchwood. I reckon he’s the Stig, with helmet. Nasty was all over the place again this week trying to jam 8 or 9 plays into the minute they gave him with little or no tactical appreciation or spatial awareness. Nasty is no Kafe. I reckon he’d be better off at the braie in the carpark.
The first quarter of the match was played mainly in Bokkie territory. A penalty to the Lions after that first memorable Chilli scrum (they were penalised as well popped) gave them a 3-0 lead. In the 11th minute Morné Steyn kicked one for South Africa to even it up at 3-3. There was plenty of ball in the air. At 24th minute, Heaslip burst through the gap out in the centres and unloaded to Shane Williams for his first try. Jones missed the conversion 8-3. In the 32nd minute a steal by Croft (who was a blood bin replacement for Worsley) went through the hands and Flutey, the pakeha Maori, chipped over the defensive line. He regathered by flicking the ball backwards towards Shane Williams. Williams miraculously caught it and had a clear run for the line. A brace for the Welsh wizard. Jones converted to take it to 15-3. A late Steyn penalty took the halftime score to 15-6.
There were a few changes made by the Boks with Bismark on for Chilli and Pienaar for du Preez. In the 50th minute a good Springbok move unfortunately ended with Kirchner knocking on over the line. At the 53 minute mark, Monye intercepted an attacking ball from Olivier to Kirchner to run the length of the field and score under the posts. The conversion took it to 22-6. A host of changes then took place. Hayes came on for Vicks and did a sterling job in keeping The Beast, then Steenkamp honest. Phillips ended up at five eighth, Ellis at half and Jones at inside centre. For the Bokkies, Francois Steyn on for Kirchner and Spies actually ended up on the wing, which is not a surprise considering his speed.
A 67th minute penalty for Steyn led into the period where the Boks lost their shape. They also started some unnecessary niggle and lost their discipline. In the 75th minute Ndungane crossed the tryline but the TMO, Bryce Lawrence declared him to be out over the touchline. The TMO took 138 replays to work that one out, although after all that I sense he may have in fact got it wrong. Two more penalties to Jones and the game finished at 28-9.
The Lions wanted to win this game more than the Bokkies. Their commitment and intensity were higher and they thoroughly deserved the result. There isn’t that much between these two sides as evidenced by the scores in each game. A little luck and the Lions could have easily drawn or won last week and we’d be playing for an equaliser or decider this week. For the Lions Kearney was again a class act at the rear, Bowe and Flutey had effective games in attack and (particularly) defence. The Lions forwards including O’Connell, Shaw, Vicks, Heaslip and Sheridan worked their arses off. Shane Williams had a terrific all round game and was named man of the match but I thought it should have gone to Heaslip.
For the Bokkies Brussow, Juan Smith, Kankowski and Smit were all prominent in the forward exchanges. Olivier and particularly Jacque Fourie were very solid in the midfield. Kirchner had a tidy debut at fullback. The team for the first Tri-Nations test will inevitably be the one that took the field last week. This has been a very competitive, intense and enjoyable test series, fully living up to the billing. There’s just something about a Lions tour……
British & Irish Lions 28 (Shane Williams 2, Ugo Monye tries; Stephen Jones 2 cons 3 pens) South Africa 9 (Morne Steyn 3 pens)