Finally, after 4x warm-up Franchise games and a Claytons test we see South Africa turn away from dealing with the frivolities of a worldwide plague, riots and the disintegration of civil order to grapple with the really important stuff in life – the first test of Springboks against the Lions.
On what looked like a clear, sunny and fantastic day in Cape Town, Aussie Nic Berry blew time-on in-front of a raucous crowd of zero and Dan Biggar got proceedings underway with the now common-place No2 kick to the front-edge of the Bokke 22m. A clean catch and a pod or two saw a poor clearance from Faf DeKlerk give the Lions an early good shot with possession hard on the Bokke 22metre. But offside by Lawes spoilt the bomb and relieved the pressure. Essentially this was the 1st half in a nutshell – Lions chances spoilt and Bokkes coming away ahead.
And so it went. Following a series of Lions lineouts which were misfiring badly, the Lions tried some midfield running but at 3.15min a massive hit by Bokke13 Lukhanyo Am sat Lions13 Elliot Daly fair on his butt and put paid to the Lions early chances.
This gave the Bokke a chance to show their approach and surprise surprise, what we saw was the age-old Bokke familiarity of bombs, midfield smashes by enormous Backs (e.g. DeAllende) and tight running and small-passing by even bigger Pigs (e.g. Trev Nyakane, Etzebeth and DuToit). But hey, the Bokke do it so well who cares if it’s predictable? It’s still effective.
We also saw 3x Bokke ruck-steals by Kwagga and DuToit hitting pay dirt from the ever-predictable Bokke ruck-smashing (God, how I love that).
Anyway, the opening 5-8min showed lots of endeavour by both sides but little outcome. The Lions were clearly trying to bomb out of their red-zone and then hit the 13 channel (possibly to unleash Hoggy from fullback), whilst the Bokke were boxing out of the red-zone up into midfield to then pound the centre.
The Freudian-laced much-anticipated 1st scrum came at 8.50min with a Bokke feed. Bokke were dominant and Lions dropped for Aussie-Nic to signal Bokke advantage. That advantage led to another Bokke scrum on the Lions 10 m line and, following a reset, a short-arm to the Bokke continued the Bokke dominance of possession and now territory with an eventual Lions penalty (not rolling away) at 12.40min midway between the Lions 22 & 10metres and approx 20m in from touch. Hollard stepped up in his 50th Test and cemented his position as the 3rd highest Springbok point-scorer of all time by duly thumping it over for 3-0 to the Bokke at 13.50min.
Lions kick a No2 left (again) and Faf clearance not effective again. A promising midfield Lions carry was pulled to maul by smothering DeToit & Etzebeth and earnt a Bok scrum. Clearly the Lions are still chasing the 13 channel but with no joy with ball in hand. The Bokke push-on to get a lineout nearing the Lions 22m and a late tackle by Lions7 Tom Curry gave a cheap penalty to Bokke at the Lions 22m line at 15m infield. Hollard steps up again. 6-0 Bokke at 17.30min.
Rinse and repeat with another BIL No2 kick-off and another Faff box kick for a Lions lineout at halfway. The Lions go looking for 13 channel again and a Bokke offside gave a cheap penalty to the Lions on the Bokke 10 m line. Biggar makes no mistake, and it’s Lions on the board for 6-3 at 19.30min.
Bokke kick-off mirrors the Lions with a No2 kick which led to Glasgow Warrior’s Alli Price box clearance and thus to Mario Itoje forcing a brutal midfield turnover. However, another promising Biggar bomb only led to Bokke penalty generated by the Lions over-enthusiastic no-release at the resulting bomb-maul.
This gave the Bokke lineout and field possession with a nice maul & drive to the Lion 5 metre line and the signs were ominous. But cometh the need cometh the man and a magnificent turnover was forced by Itoje. The resultant clearing lineout was spoiled by the Bokke Mostert (Lions having real problems at lineout) and generated a Bokke scrum on the Lions 22m at 5m infield. The subsequent Bokke win and 3x quick pods pulled an off-feet penalty out of the Lions and another Hollard shot on the 22 m at midfield. Hollard is a sniper today, and so it clicked-over to 9-3 to Bokke at 26min. The Lions are brave, but are drifting out of the game in the face of relentless Bokke pressure…
Rinse and repeat, kickoff with the same Faf box-kick reply, taking play to the Bokke 10m line. The Lions have their first real lineout platform to attack from here. But a not-straight throw from Cowan-Dickie just gave the scrum ball back to Bokke. The Lions have no rhythm. They are trying hard, but they are trying too hard and need to settle down and execute, or the match is over.
Some mutual midfield meandering was eventually broken up by fantastic break-down work by Toit and Bokke3 Nkanye which forced a penalty to the Bokke on the Lions 10m line. Another Hollard sniper shot made it 4 from 4 for 12-3 to Bokke at 30.15min.
Same kick-off, blah blah blah. But a penalty to the Lions on halfway gave a Lions lineout on the Bokke 22m and a great opportunity to strike back. But poor lineout work AGAIN from the BIL’s spoilt the chance, and they were lucky a Bokke knock-on gave a scrum feed on the Bokke 22m.
This scrum saw a massive shunt by the Lions tight side and between Tadhg Furlong ably assisted by Tom Curry made Ox Nche suffer altitude sickness and so the Lions were recipients of a penalty awarded on the Bokke 22 at 15m infield for a bread & butter 3pt shot… and Biggar missed!!! The Lions are their own worst enemy!
The subsequent Bokke drop-out led to meandering mutual midfield bombing which went nowhere, but a late & high tackle by Bokke No2 Bongo Mbonambi gave the Lions another shot for 3 from halfway. The kicker-change to Lions 13 Elliot Daly was straight but short. Bloody hell Lions…
Thereafter, some more largely indeterminate midfield kicking abruptly gave the Lions their best break to date… but poor meat & potato ball security in the tackle led to a defusing Bokke scrum inside their 22m on 15yrd as the half-time hooter sounded. The scrum led to a Bokke penalty and a lineout near halfway which came to nothing when Faf lost patience and booted the ball into the cheap (and otherwise unoccupied) seats.
Halftyd lemoene saw it 12-3 to the Bokke. The Lions enthusiasm was only outdone by their ineptitude in killing everything they tried to do with bread & butter execution like lineouts and penalty shots going astray. Versus that the Bokke were as predictable as ever but so-what? The Bokke are basically suffocating the Lions with simple tight running and boa-constricting defence to pop 3ptrs. The Lions really needed to settle down especially in the lineout. It’s surprisingly roughly 50/50 on possession and field-position but it’s clear Bokke ascendency. At this stage I would say Lawes and Itoje are best on-field for the Billy-Boys closely supported by Furlong and it’s DuToit for the Bokke but with Kwagga getting through a mountain of unseen work.
Tweede helfte saw the Bokke kick off al a BIL style with No2 but to their right. Only now I notice the Bokke have swapped their front row. A clean take, strong box-kick and breakdown pressure get the Lions a lineout well in the Bokke 22m. A clean 5man Lions lineout-win enabled strong pod work pushing the Lions to the Bokke 5metre line – the Lions have finally woken up. A “modern” high tackle by Etzbeth saw the Billy-Boys surprisingly decline an easy 3ptr for a 5m lineout. The Lions are pushing for the try. And so the Lions lineout maul duly achieves the driving try to the BIL no2 Luke Cowan-Dickie at 43.30min and so-converted by Biggar. Suddenly it’s 12-10 to the Bokke at 45min. Game on Bhoyos…
A Bokke No2 kick to the right and subsequent midfield bombing either way eventually led to the Billy’s blinking first and an exciting break by Bokke and possible try to Bokke at 47min. However the TMO finally ruled Hollard was offside at a toe-through by Luke Am and so no try ruled. It was a fair call and led back to a Lions penalty on their 10yrd line. The resulting Lions lineout on Bokke 10metre (poor distance kick) went nowhere with a Lions midfield knock-on giving over a great Bokke attacking platform from the scrum in midfield. After some bizarre running and fumbling about, DuToit recovered a loose ball which led to Macca Mapimpi toe-ing through and after more fumbling and bumbling including what initially looked like a clear DuToit knock-on, Faf dived over for a try pending TMO referral. The frame-by-frame TMO inquisition showed DuToit did not fumble and so Faf’s try was awarded. The conversion was surprisingly missed by Hollard making for 17-10 to the Bokke at 50min.
Kick-off, box-kick, blah blah but then some creative Lions running in midfield pulled an off-side penalty from the Bokke to the Lions at 30metres out and dead in-front. And so Biggar drilled it for 17-13 Bokke at 53min and the Lions are still well in this.
No2 kick, box-kicking blah blah blah and suddenly a great carry by Lawes through the 13 channel (which the Lions have been pursuing all day) saw the big man eat 30-40metres through at least 3x Bokke tacklers and led to the Lions pounding runners onto the Bokke 22m. More successive midfield pounding bled a Bokke penalty from Macca MyPimpy on the ground/tackle and so another 30m penalty kick from in-front by Biggar made the line 17-16 to Bokke at 56min.
The Lions ran out a new front row and you can smell the Big Cats are sensing they can win this but the almost maniacal grin and wild eyes on Etzebeth face likewise showed this was far from over.
From the kickoff the Lions push play up over the halfway to the Bokke 10m line and acquire an attacking scrum. However after a good scrum platform and promising Lions midfield crashing, the ubiquitous Lions bomb came undone via knock-on and the Bokkes scrum relieved the pressure.
Much ado for no outcome both ways resulted for a while through the midfield until an otherwise unremarkable penalty to the Lions (no-release I think) at 62.30min saw Biggar kick a predictable 3pts for the Lions to go ahead for first time in the match. 17-19 to Lions at 63min.
A lifting tackle just after kickoff by Hamish Watson now courted controversy. In these days of hypersensitive TMO’s, Watson was lucky to stay on-field it must be said. And the decision will surely come under scrutiny in coming days as will the disallowed Hollard/Bokke try. But either way the resulting 3pt shot by Hollard at 65min missed left. In the background, Farrell replaced Daly for the BIL’s.
From the dropout, a Lions knock-on around halfway triggered a wave of mutual replacements (incl Sinkler for Furlong who had a massive game in dark places) before the Bokke scrum at 66min just inside Lions half. Classic Bokke play unfolded with DeAllende smashing it up (including putting his noggin’ fair into Biggar’s chest) and Bokke tight-running forwards creating opportunity on the Bokke right wing but which was de jour fluffed. In the backfield, DeAllende had done his job and Daly was back on for the now-busted-Biggar. But ultimately it was a Lions scrum on their own quarter at 5metres infield.
A disputable Lions scrum penalty (yes Vunipola monstered Franky MalHerbe but Kits-off fairly ate Sinkler too – for me it was a reset) allowed the Lions to push to a lineout on halfway which Lawes won at the front. An initially well-built and promising drive straight up-field came to nowt as Etzbeth folded around and trucked FrankKenOath straight into touch (probably poetic justice given the scrum penalty).
This lineout then only led to mutual midfield bombing as each side dared the other to blink first and the pressure was palpable. Both teams were clearly now risk adverse and happy to play without the ball to force field position with the highlight of the passage of play only being when Kolbe near knocked FrankKenOaths head clean off with an instant YouTube classic Falcon.
Eventually the tête-à-tête of kicking and fumbling led to a scrum feed to Bokke at 70min on about the Bokke 10m line for a chance for both sides to reset.
And so it was predictability-plus with DeAllende smashing midfield for japies Pigs to more-smash but the Billy-Boys line held and Faf chose to box-kick from around the Bokke 10metres line. Bumbling and fumbling pressure and loose ball went nowhere with a reset Lions scrum on the Lions 10metres at 5metres infield resulted at 72min. This saw the BIL’s become japies with a Henshaw midfield smash for Murray to now box-kick which led to Lawes regathering and the nice work was of-course kicked away by Farrell.
More kick and lineout either way led to a Lions lineout on halfway which only made for messy pressured ball and the Lions were decidedly lucky that tiring Bokke hands led only to a BIL scrum just the other side of the Bokke 10m line at 74min.
This was a good Lions scrum that fed front-foot ball to the blind winger. The reload saw midfield BIL piggy smashes and a promising scenario was building. But then another entirely predictable but inexplicable Farrell bomb was well-defused by Janties (replaced Hollard). Clearly the Lions are sacrificing otherwise promising running opportunities to try and pull penalties so-as to strangle time. And almost on-queue Stef DuToit was penalised in a lineout maul and Farrell stepped up for another 3ptr from 30metres out and 15metres in. The successful shot made for 22-17 Lions at 78min.
The Bokke were clearly now desperate to steal back a try and they came-on hard. They brutalised the ball back from the kickoff and set about a series of cliched midfield Bokke bashing runs. But finally the BIL’s seemed to gel and grinding Lions defence saw the Bokke bashed backwards at successive rucks and a Mario Itoje ruck-steal allowed the ball to be cleared to touch for the Lions win.
Voltyds was 22-17 to the Lions. The BIL’s had snuck ahead at 63min almost in-spite of themselves and held on.
Die opwas: Congratulations to the Billy-Boys especially after being down 12-3 at oranges. The Lions were disjointed, misfiring and particularly their lineout showed how out of sync they were for a team who had played 5-6 matches together already. But their 2nd half was much more poised and showed some real touches of class especially in their forwards. For the Bokke, they will be disappointed to lose that particularly after such a dominant first half scoreline. It was Bokke for the taking. I would expect not too many changes but a much more ferocious Bokke in next 2 tests to be met by a more settled and improved mob of Billy-Boys. This will be HUGE, but please will both sides choose to do something other than put up bombs? I reckon the 3rd grade kick-rule should apply in the next 2 tests; you kick it then you get it back or you owe beers.
I expect poor Aussie Nic Berry to be deeply unpopular for leaving Hamish Watson on the field. However I thought he reffed a fair game and applied his version of the laws both ways.
Man van die wedstryd was tight. Those paid to know better than I am gave it to Itoje based on some moments of brave brilliance and he seems to have learnt to shut his mouth and stop aggravating referees. For the Bokke, DuToit was massive and DeAllende carried powerfully. All kickers were near-snipers. But for me the Bokke best was DuToit and my MOTM was Courtney Lawes closely followed by Tadhg Furlong.
So Totsiens, goed om jo ute sien and geniet die dag.
And well done Aussie Womens 4x 100m Medley. Bloody beautiful.