Lions ravage Springboks in final test
The British and Irish Lions ended their tour of South Africa in sensational style with a thorough thrashing of the World champions.
They stormed to a 28-9 victory with Welsh winger Shane Williams grabbing a brace before England’s Ugo Monye intercepted an stray pass and sprinted the length of the pitch to ensure a Lion’s test win.
The battling Lions prevented an unprecedented clean sweep at the hands of the Springboks. After two heart breaking defeats (26-21 in Durban and 28-25 in Pretoria), pride was restored as with Paul O’ Connell’s troops hitting back in emphatic style.
A passionate Lion’s side dominated South Africa from the start. Stephen Jones put the Lions on the scoreboard on 8 minutes after South Africa were forced into an error thanks to a ferocious scrum from the tourists.
Yet the home side were soon presented with a penalty of their own, which Morne Steryn duly converted. More strewn errors from the Springboks allowed the Lions to mount charge after charge within the South African half.
After 25 minutes, Shane Williams flew across the try line after a an inside pass from Jamie Heaslip. South Africa failed to hold onto the electric Heaslip who escaped a challenge and promptly fed the Williams the ball.
The superb Stephen Jones failed to convert from in front of the posts when the ball tippled off the kicking tee. Two simple points lost. Despite the setback, the Lions maintained their rising momentum.
South Africa were unable to cope with the impassioned tourists. Simon Shaw who excelled in last weeks test, unlucky to be on the losing side, managed to overturn South African ball.
Silky handling skills from backs Stephen Jones and Riki Flutely, led to the Lions second try in an action packed eight minutes. Shane Williams was once again present to apply the finishing touch to an absorbing piece of play.
Jones made no mistake with his conversion on this occasion, as the ball floated between the posts to put his side into a commanding 12 point lead.
Shortly before half time, the South Africans managed to salvage three points from a one sided first half. Last week’s hero, Steryn on call to reduce the deficit to a more manageable nine points.
The Lions commenced the second half with the same ferocity as they had started the game. Tommy Bowe, who enjoyed a magnificent game, launched a ball deep into Springbok territory. The home side failed to deal with the awkward ball and the Lions were soon in possession once again.
In the 54th minute, the South Africans found themselves facing a mountain to climb after falling even further behind. A surge into the Lions half, puts the tourist under the microscope as they are faced with a mounting charge by the world champions.
A drifted pass from Zane Kirchner fails to reach his intended target as it is intercepted by the oncoming Ugo Monye. Monye darts past the South African line and streaks ahead of the chasing Jongi Nokwe, the fastest man on the pitch.
Jones pops over the conversion once more to put the tourists 22-6 in front. With the Springboks unable to tame the Lions, the fight seems to have left the home side.
In the final 15 minutes the sides swap penalties as the score runs up to 25-9. The stadium was brought to its feet as South African, Odwa Ndungane crosses the tourist’s try line for the first time in 76 minutes.
However Ndungane was adjudged to have gone out of bounds before planting the ball over the line. The Lions managed to fight off any further attacks by the South Africans.
Indeed, a disgruntled Francois Steyn sparked a melee as he pushed over the fierce Mark Phillips. The affray resulted in another Lions penalty with Jones polishing off a dynamic performance, leaving the score at 28-9.
It was duel reward for a tour which the British and Irish Lions failed to win despite accomplished performances in every test. The commitment of the squad can not be questioned. Led by talismatic captain O’Connell they brought the fight to the South Africans, missing out twice by agonisingly small margins.
Undoubtedly was it not for the recklessness of Irish fly half, Ronan O’Gara, in the second test, Ian McGeechan’s men could be celebrating a tied or even possibly a victorious series.
O’Connell heaped praise on his team after the game saying: “It’s been a tough week, mentally, for everyone. We really dug deep and some guys produced some serious form and some great scores.”
“The first Test we could have won, the second we should have won… we were eager that kind of memory wouldn’t be upset by a poor performance today, knowing we were beaten and throwing in the towel.”