B&I Lions knock Boks off their champions perch
MATCH REPORT: The British and Irish Lions struck a crucial early blow in the three-match Test series with an impressive come-from-behind 22-17 win over South Africa in Cape Town on Saturday.
Trailing 3-12 at half-time, the visitors turned the tables on the Springboks and physically dominated them in the second half – outscoring their hosts by 19-5.
Not only did the Springboks seem to tire, but their tactics were also ineffective against a very clinical B&I Lions team.
* Did you miss the action? To recap all the drama, CLICK HERE!
Replacement Owen Farrell kicked a late penalty to seal the win over the World Cup champions in a tight, bruising first Test.
The B&I Lions employed their aerial game to good effect after the break and dominated to go one up in the three-Test series, which continues next Saturday.
Flyhalf Dan Biggar kicked four penalties for the tourists, before being replaced by Farrell – who slotted the crucial penalty with two minutes remaining.
South Africa pressed into B&I Lions’ territory at the death, but a knock-on outside the 22 robbed them of a chance to snatch victory.
The B&I Lions’ try came from hooker Louis Cowan-Dickie, who atoned for some poor line-out throws by barging over off a maul four minutes into the second half.
Springbok flyhalf Handre Pollard kicked four first-half penalties for a 12-3 half-time lead and the only second-half points for the hosts came from a try by scrumhalf Francois de Klerk.
Pollard slotted penalties after 14 and 18 minutes for South Africa as they translated early territory and possession advantages into points on a cool day.
Rival playmaker Biggar was successful with his first penalty to leave the tourists trailing 3-6 midway through a first half every bit as physical as had been predicted.
Pollard, who kicked 22 points in the 2019 World Cup Final triumph over England, was in superb form from the tee, banging over two more penalties to push the home team nine points in front.
The B&I Lions lost chances to trim the deficit before half-time as Biggar pulled a penalty, Elliot Daly was short with a long-range shot and fellow centre Robbie Henshaw lost the ball forward when poised to score.
After Biggar converted the Cowan-Dickie score, a scrambled try by De Klerk gave South Africa a 17-10 advantage on 50 minutes.
But it was the last time the Springboks scored – as the aerial bombardment from the B&I Lions took its toll and Biggar kicked three penalties and Farrell one for a deserved victory.
Man of the match: Lukhanyo Am was impressive on defence and Damian de Allende carried the ball well all game long, right to the bitter end. Albertus Smith justified his selection and Pieter-Steph du Toit was the physical workhorse the Boks needed. Stuart Hogg was a rock at No.15, Dan Biggar directed the play very well, Alun Wyn Jones was his dependable self and as was a very productive Courtney Lawes. Our award goes to B&I Lions lock Maro Itoje – who won several crucial turnovers, was solid in the set pieces and made all his tackles.
Moment of the match: One try each and nine penalties. The most crucial score was the Owen Farrell penalty in the 78th minute – it ended the game as a contest.
Villain: Physical and even brutal at times, but no villains.
For South Africa
Try: De Klerk
Pens: Pollard 4
For the British and Irish Lions
Pens: Biggar 4, Farrell
South Africa: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Francois de Klerk, 8 Albertus Smith, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siyamthanda Kolisi (captain), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Mbongeni Mbonambi, 1 Retshegofaditswe Nche.
Replacements: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 19 Frans Malherbe, 19 Lodewyk de Jager, 20 Rynhardt Elstadt, 21 Herschel Jantjies, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 Damian Willemse.
British and Irish Lions: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Elliot Daly, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 Duhan van der Merwe, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Ali Price, 8 Jack Conan, 7 Tom Curry, 6 Courtney Lawes, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (captain), 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 1 Rory Sutherland.
Replacements: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 Tadhg Beirne, 20 Hamish Watson, 21 Conor Murray, 22 Owen Farrell, 23 Liam Williams.
Referee: Nic Berry (Australia)
Assistant referees: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand), Mathieu Raynal (France)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)