|South Africa: (12) 17|
|To try: The clerk Pens: Pollard 4|
|British and Irish Lions: (3) 22|
|To try: Cowan-Dickie With: Biggar Pens: Biggar 4, Farrell|
The British and Irish Lions drew the series’ first blood against South Africa after firing back nine points at halftime to win 22-17.
The tourists were adrift at the break after Handre Pollard’s four penalties.
But hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie rushed a short distance four minutes into the break to change the tide.
Klerk’s Faf draft essay briefly restored the cushion of the world champions, but Dan Biggar’s boot and superior conditioning from the tourists brought them home.
The Lions survived a late attack when Owen Farrell’s penalty three minutes from time was followed by a desperate attack from the hosts as they sought an unsuccessful tying try.
With the next two tests to be played out at the same site at sea level, rather than Johannesburg as originally planned, the Lions will return to Cape Town Stadium in seven days in search of the kill and a first series victory. in South Africa since the iconic 1997 Success.
South Africa’s winless streak in the city now dates back to September 2014. The hosts, who have only played one test in 20 months, will wonder how the game and the momentum got away from them after a first half controlled and composed.
Henshaw fails to make a rare stick in the first half
Twelve years ago, the Lions were taken aback by a Springbok blitz of hits and weight in the first test. On this occasion, they conceded a try in the first five minutes and were 19 points behind at the start of the second half.
Lukhanyo Am landed a huge blow over Elliot Daly in midfield, but overall the 2021 Lions more than physically matched their hosts in the opening trade.
Instead, South Africa’s shrewd kicking game, forcing the Lions to play in depth, and the occasional indiscipline of tourists, Tom Curry and Chief Elliot Daly among the culprits, gave Handre Pollard four shots on goal and the Boks a 12-3 lead over the half hour.
Biggar and Elliot Daly both missed the opportunity to cut the deficit off the tee, before Robbie Henshaw wasted the best opening each side had created in the dying minute of a suspicious half.
The Lions center came off on a blind break after Biggar’s quick hands beat the South African defense. However, with options on each shoulder, Henshaw couldn’t secure a pass until full-back Willie Le Roux dislodged the ball with a superb cover tackle.
It looked like it could be costly. Instead, it was a sign of things to come.
The game opened in the second half with Cowan-Dickie burrowing into the back of a rolling maul that swept through the heart of the Springbok pack four minutes after the break. Lions rarely looked back.
TMO in the spotlight
Lions coach Warren Gatland had microscopic South African video manager Marius Jonker earlier in the week, wondering why there was no alternative neutral TMO when New Zealander Brendon Pickerill couldn’t to travel to South Africa.
The spotlight was duly on Jonker with two hair-wide calls within two minutes of Cowan-Dickie’s score.
First, Jonker overturned referee Nic Berry’s decision on the field, ruling out Willie Le Roux’s try for an offside that only he could see for sure.
Soon after, Jonker saw no evidence of a Pieter-Steph du Toit kick as Makazole Mapimpi’s kick caused chaos and De Klerk pointed into the fray.
|South Africa||British and Irish Lions|
|128/19||Tackles made / missed||108/15|
But that score could not prevent the momentum from drifting away from South Africa.
The hosts, who were only playing their second test since winning the Rugby World Cup final in November 2019, appeared long in fatigue and short of endurance.
The front row of their much-vaunted bomb squad – Frans Malherbe, Malcolm Marx and Steven Kitshoff – failed to deliver the expected advantage in the fray when they got to the bench.
And the faith of Lions coach Warren Gatland that South Africa would fade if they kept the pace high and that the ball in play had finally been confirmed to the delight of the entire team that s ‘is dumped on the field at the final whistle.
Same time, same day, same XV?
Gatland and his coaches came to their selection meeting earlier in the week with just seven unanimous picks from their various starting lineups.
In the unlikely event that Maro Itoje isn’t one of them, he sure will be when the back room meets before the second test.
The English second line, a talismanic figure in the series drawn against New Zealand four years ago, was once again supreme, off-putting for every inch and pilfering a black bullet, with a critical turnover in the l shadow of its own posts.
Courtney Lawes was a more controversial choice in the starting back row. But his abrasive ball carry and appetite for work saw him find his way to the ascendant as the match progressed.
The performance of the replacement front row – Mako Vunipola, Ken Owens and Kyle Sinckler – may also give Gatland food for thought, especially given Cowan-Dickie’s brief swings during the first-half roster. .
Man of the Match – Courtney Lawes
South Africa: Le Roux; Kolbe, Am, De Allende, Mapimpi; Pollard, the clerk; Nche, Mbonambi, Nyakane, Etzebeth, Mostert, Kolisi (capt), Du Toit, Smith
Substitutes: Marx, Kitshoff, Malherbe, De Jager, Elstadt, H Jantjies, E Jantjies, Willemse
British and Irish Lions: Hogg ; A Watson, Daly, Henshaw, Van Der Merwe; Biggar, Prix ; Sutherland, Cowan-Dickie, Furlong, Itoje, AW Jones (capitaine), Lawes, Curry, Conan.
Substitutes: Owens, Vunipola, Sinckler, Beirne, H Watson, Murray, Farrell, L Williams.