|South Africa: (6) 19|
|To try: Kolbe; Pens: Pollard 2, Steyn 2; With: Têtard|
|British and Irish Lions: (10) 16|
|To try: Owens ; Pens: Russel 3; With: Russel|
The British and Irish Lions lost a decisive game against South Africa as Morne Steyn’s late penalty sealed a 19-16 victory.
Steyn, 37, landed the kick that decided the 2009 series and it turned out little had changed as he put the Springboks ahead with two minutes left.
The Lions led at halftime after Ken Owens’ try and made up the kicks for substitute opening half Finn Russell.
Cheslin Kolbe crossed and from there it was all over for the scorers.
Russell – who replaced injured Dan Biggar in the 11th minute – managed a long-distance effort to tie it at 13-13 with 18 minutes remaining.
He and Steyn then exchanged kicks, before the Springbok 10 delivered the final blow to add a Lions series victory to their 2019 World Cup success.
Russell occasionally rises in the first half
It was as if there was much more than a series at stake for the decider, with the un-entertaining style-driven build-up of the first two tests and complaints from both sides about the refereeing.
The decision maker at least delivered the late drama, but with just six scored tries in the series, questions may remain about the game’s ability to attract new fans in its current form.
Russell’s early entry after Biggar left with what looked like a right leg injury suggested the Lions may be forced to move on to a more exciting game plan than reliance on physics and kicks from the first two tests.
The Scotland 10 – often referred to as a maverick for their astute kicks for Racing 92 club and country – looked calm as they stepped onto the pitch with a smile for every one of his team-mates.
Russell hadn’t played for five weeks due to an Achilles tendon injury, but didn’t look bothered as he sent a penalty into the middle of the posts.
It would be his last kick to goal of the first half as the Lions showed ambition, sending a penalty into the corner to set Owens’ try in a maul before nailing the conversion.
The Lions looked confident with the ball in hand and Russell sent two more three-point opportunities into the corner – a good idea at the time that may have turned out stupid by the final score.
Pollard did nothing of the sort and instead kept his team within four points after a successful second penalty before half-time.
South Africa scores remarkable victory
The momentum had shifted drastically at halftime in the previous two tests, with the Lions rebounding for victory in the first and South Africa winning the second.
This time neither team acted at the start as multiple saves slowed the game down and the game started to lose momentum.
The Lions had made it clear during the week that they wanted to play with the beat. They were deprived of that ability, but at least stayed on top of the scoreboard as Pollard missed two penalties.
The match was finally revived when South Africa won the high ball again and Willie le Roux pulled in Jack Conan, giving Kolbe all the space he needed to get around Liam Williams and score.
A lengthy examination verified whether Springbok eight Jasper Wiese had kicked the ball in the air, but the test was sustained.
Russell – often referred to as a maverick for his instinctive play – took another step up the road to the test pillar with a nerve-less penalty just inside South Africa’s half to level things off at 13-13.
But the Lions immediately conceded a penalty themselves and Steyn put the Springboks ahead.
The Lions’ hopes were high as they kicked the corner again with 10 minutes remaining, but Mako Vunipola was held back over the line.
The tourists gave Steyn another chance to kick two minutes from time to time and the Springbok 10 once again put an end to the Lions’ dreams in a defeat made all the more difficult to accept through the sacrifices. that the players had agreed to end the tour in a strict coronavirus bubble.
For South Africa, whose series of tests almost ended before it began when most of the team tested positive for the coronavirus during preparation and which had only passed one test of d he warm-up since the 2019 World Cup is a remarkable victory.