South Africa 28 – British & Irish Lions 25
What an absolute pearler, best game I’ve seen in a couple of years. And such a thriller at the end for sure. It was a gladiatorial contest of titanic proportions. The British & Irish Lions threw everything but the kitchen sink at the Bokkies and just when they could see victory over the horizon, were heartbreakingly defeated on the bell. This will go down in the annals of South Africa v Lions matches as a classic.
They just don’t come much better than this and again, what a crowd and what an atmosphere: if you were watching can you feel it? 9 out of 10 (would have been a 10 if the Lions props had stayed on the park – uncontested scrums at this level just don’t quite look right). The Lions came out red hot, charging at the breakdown and ready to give the Bokkies their comeuppance. They continued in this vein right up until the end; however, having lost a heap of players to injury subsequently ran out of puff and momentum.
The Lions gave it their best shake and like the siege at Rorke’s Drift, deserved a swag of VCs (Google it if you don’t know). Unfortunately, and I say that thinking how delicious a tied series would’ve been coming up to Ellis Park next week, they came up short. The Bokkies were on the back foot for the first half but showed that winning the World Cup in 07 was no fluke. They displayed outstanding character as the they hung on throughout the game by their fingernails. Their supporters were praying don’t stop till you get enough, and they didn’t, just.
There’s the good, the bad, and the ugly. Speaking of the Beast, they say a week is a long time in politics. It must be the same with rugby. This was going to be a mouth watering clash and it proved to be so, except, it didn’t quite go to script. Nothing is ever just black or white. The Beast was completely outscrummaged by the Hair Bear, and isn’t he a beauty? The addition of Adam Jones, Rees and Shaw fixed up their scrum deficiencies big time. It looked like they’d done a whole pile of work on this aspect of play during the week. The Beast and The Bismarck were sunk – popped in the second scrum of the match and, godwin forbid, penalised in the process! Lions 1 Bokke 0.
In the first minute of play, Skulk Burger (like Sergio Parisse last night, bless him) decided to play his own version of chopsticks in Luke Fitzgerald’s mince pies, right in front of the touchie. It was like Merry Xmas Mr Lawrence. After spending a few minutes trying to explain this to the Frog referee (who I’d imagine would know a thing or two about ‘la fourchette’ – deux digits in les yeux, nombre six, Skulk…card…at least a yellow’). He should have said rouge, ‘cos that’s what it deserved and Skulk will no doubt deservedly be sitting out some or all of the Tri-Nations once the citing commissioner gets his digits on the DVD.
The start of this match was absolute bedlam, just frenetic wave after wave of Lions attack. An example of this is that the first scrum wasn’t actually set until the 14th minute of the game. Anyhow, after a couple of minutes of the match Stephen Jones kicked the first penalty to lead by 3. In the 6th minute, the Lions counter attacked with a beautiful flick pass by Stephen Jones to Rockin’ Robin Kearney who dummied Steyn and was tackled over the line. With the Jones conversion they were 10-0 up.
In the 11th minute, the Bokkies struck back with a planned move at a lineout, JP scything through after receiving a sympathetic pass on the inside from Pienaar. It wasn’t converted, 10-5. Another Lions penalty goal left them 13-5 in front. The Lions backs were in the zone with BO’D outstanding and again proving he is the best centre in world rugby. Kearney, Philips and Jones were others who were playing to their optimum level, just great celtic flair. A Jones dropped goal took it to 16-5 in the 35th minute , with a Frans Steyn penalty on halftime leaving it at 16-8. The halftime stats showed that the Lions had 70% of possession, and as a consequence, had made a third of the Bokkie tackles. The real heroes of the first half weren’t those woosie Bread of Heaven backs, but their piggies. Jones, Jenkins, Shaw, Wallace and Heaslip had been outstanding and completely dominated the proceedings. Geechs had turned it round.
If you think the three stooges Mexted, Nesbitt and Smith beat it up and are a bit of a joke, what about the halftime heroics of Kobus Headroom, Naasty Booter and Cherry Guscott. Talk about stating the bleedin’ obvious. Booter’s analysis was something out of Kindergarten Cops? Ya, und dis time it was der Hair Bear who popped der Beast, ya! For fuck’s sake, where do they get these people from? Even makes Wally look like a professional……
The second half began as frenetically as the first with the Lions continuous attack. The physicality at the breakdown was enormous and took it’s toll. Firstly, Gethin Jenkins visited the Magic Kingdom after a fearsome head clash and then the Hair Bear buggered his wrist. That brought Andrew Sheridan on in the first instance and Alun-Wyn Jones in the second (Christ, it must be like a Chinese phone book in Wales, you know – Jones, Jones, Jones and Jones). Sheridan wanted to prove that he was over Le Fuse embarassment and got stuck into Bakkies and the boytjies with wanna be startin’ something. Unfortunately for him it was now uncontested scrums, so his embrassment remains. The game lost a bit of its shape after this but it was still fantastigorical.
In the 60th minute, another Jones penalty took the score to 19-8 and the way the Lions were playing it looked like they could possibly go on and win. This was when the game changing incident happened. BO’D in defence, a mile offside, hammered into Dannie Roussow who’d just been on only a minute or two. Roussow visited Fantasyland and was replaced by Heinrich Brussow. BO’D also went off a short time later due to the same problem (replaced by Shane Williams). Two minutes later a well executed move from the set piece resulted in a Bryan Habana try, converted by local hero Morne Steyn. 19-15 and we’re baaaaaaack! Another Steyn penalty in the 67th minute, effected by Brussow at the ruck got them to 19-18. Skulk was then skulking around very, very offside and Jones kicked the penalty 22-18 Lions.
Brussow was everywhere and made a huge impact on defence and with turnovers. Combined with the loss of BO’D and the others, the momentum was changing. In the 71st minute Jacque Fourie (who was on for silly Billie Jean de Villiers), was at the end of a sweeping movement which resulted in a dive in the corner and a TMO decision. Stu Dickensen, the official, replayed the vision about 25 times and came up with probably the right decision – try. Superb conversion by Morne Steyn (the Pretoria crowd just loves him) 25-22 Bokkies. A Jones penalty evened it up until the 80th minute. O’Gara (a replacement for the injured Roberts) took a Bokkie out in the air 53m out. Morne Steyn kicked the goal 28-25. Springboks win the series.
For the Boks, du Plessis, Burger and die world class locks were everywhere. Du Preez, Francois Steyn and Habana all had great games. The Springbok midfield were a bit problematical with Jacobs and de Villiers both unconvincing. They won the prize and the girl is mine. I’m not sure how the Wallabies are going to beat these guys.
The Lions, well you’ve got to give them credit. They took it to the Springboks and gave it everything. Simon Shaw was a towering colussus and named man of the match. They did everything but win the game. Rob Kearney was terrific, BO’D outstanding and Phillips all over the place. Their forwards as a unit outplayed the Bokkies. I’m not sure who’s going to be fit for next week but hopefully we’ll see another performance of character.
South Africa 28 (Tries: Pietersen, Habana, Fourie Pens: M.Steyn 2, F.Steyn Conv: Pienaar, M. Steyn Lions 25 (Try: Kearney Pens: Jones 5 Con: Jones Drop goal: Jones)
Update 29 June: Skulk banned for 8 weeks, Bakkies for 2
Comment: I think Brussow is a more dangerous proposition for the Bokkies in the Tri-Nations than Skulk anyway? Smith v Brussow will be a beauty.