Well the tour is over as far as a result is concerned. SA lead 2 -0 in what was a great test series.
The Lions, well what can we say, we are gutted, well and truly. What do we think of them and the game, well the game was a awesome display of skill and power from both teams, as yes we do still LOVE the Lions team. They should remain a proud team, each player performing well, taking the game to the Bok, but a stupid mistake and loss of head resulted in what should of finished as a draw, to a loss against a very dirty SA team.
From the K.O Burger, came in with a game plan, and was binned for EYE GOUGING Fitzgerald. A clear red card offence and the ref needs his own eyes being checked. How he came back on we will never understand, since he has been banned for 10 weeks even though his open mouth coach was supporting him openly.
The Lions did capitalise on it, scoring 10 points in 10 minutes, with a clear game plan in mind, and great execution of true rugby. Great running and dominating position the first half had the Lions a for sure to win.
But the came the second half. Kick kick kick, seemed to be the game plan. Not sure if the players were tired or instructed by the management, but a pathetic and poorly executed territory game was played, which game the Bok the upper hand.
The Lions then started dropping like flies, Adam Jones, Jenkins, O'Driscoll & Roberts, all hobbled off the pitch and the Lions lost all game and structure. O'connell, obviously not of captain material did not have a clue how to keep his team together or adapt to the Bok who were gaining quickly.
Easy tries off set pieces showed massive holes in the Lions defence and the game was leveled at 25 v25. The Lions gain possession in their 22, with 79 minutes and 30 seconds on the clock, KICK FOR TOUCH is the only option. But not in coo-coo Gara's head. He goes for a good old Gary Owen!!
Horror on every Lions face as O'Gara chases his own kick down to near the half way line, only to run into the SA player 2 foot off the ground. We know SA wear green shirts, but really could he not see him!!.... Game over, penalty!!.. Local wonder boy for the Bok, steps up and bangs it home.. game over!!
FANS REPORT - Chris Mann
What a game of rugby football! What a finale! And what a tragedy that Ronan O’Gara in trying to make amends for his crucial missed tackle, lost his head, and threw away what would have been an honourable draw. But it should never have come down to that. And no-one should blame O’Gara or any of the players, all of whom earned the right to be regarded as True Lions, and especially O’Driscoll Kearney, and Shaw.
Previously I have commented on the ‘game in a game’ - “up front”. Never was it more clear that in rugby union the scrums remain a vital part of the game. Albeit this time it took time for the importance to kick-in as there were no scrums in the first 10 minutes – when full advantage was taken of Berger being in the sin bin.
Unlike last week where poor Vickery’s inability to scrummage cost the game, the Lions had the two excellent Welsh scrummagers Adam Jones and Gareth Jenkins plus a strong hooker in Rees, ably supported by Shaw and O’Connell. Did they wilt in the face of the Beast? Did they hell –they won the scrums and defended brilliantly an attacking Springbok scrum 5 yards from the line, to such good effect that it was turned-over. From then on, in these vital set pieces the Lions were on the front foot and going forward. They were “winning it up front” and that gave the rest of the team that vital “edge” over the Boks. Until tragedy – the injuries.
With Adam Jones anchoring things brilliantly at tight head, and even ‘stuffing’ the Beast once, Sheridan was able to keep his side up too – and was more than effective elsewhere, so things were looking good – until the worst of all Worlds – unopposed scrums due to Lions injuries.
So far so obvious to all. And there must be no criticism of the Lions players – who gave it absolutely everything, and who provided us all with one of the most intense and most wonderful games ever.
All the experienced commentators have written reams, expanding on all this – so there’s no need for more of the same from me.
But pause for a moment. And reflect on one’s own experiences of “great games”. Great games are those won where the odds seemed against us – but we had the better intellectual and the physical answers. Amidst our passion to win, we kept our heads, out-thought our opponents, and won. We all know rugby is as much in the head as the body. And all those watching this pulsating match unfold know this was a game we not only HAD to win, but one we should have and could have won.
So, unless we are happy to be always “valiant just-losers”, someone should analyse more deeply WHY we lost two Tests which the players proved on the pitch that they could have won?
The players are not at fault here. But the “management” most certainly is. Because it is their job, not just to inspire, but to use all their collective expertise, and their thinking ability to put the team for which they are responsible, into the best possible position to win.
All players and especially all forwards (and surely coaches too), know that rugby with un-opposed scrums is a totally different game. And that’s what the Lions had to contend with for more than a third of this game. How crazy was that? ‘Going unopposed’ can be a ploy to lessen the negative impact of games being lost ‘up-front’. At Club League amateur level the team that causes unopposed scrums cannot take all the points they otherwise would have earned. So “going unopposed”, if at Club level would have lost the Lions the moral right to take maximum points for a win – although to be fair such thoughts were far away in the cauldron of the occasion.
So was this all “bad luck” due to injuries? I don’t think so.
Management showed little appreciation of the vital importance of “winning the game up front” in their initial tour selection. So let’s go back to see if that’s true in their selection policy.
I respect Vickery enormously as a man, but “raging bull” he has not been for many years. Whatever other things he brings to “the loose”, simple re-watching of his last International appearances showed he has a basic flaw in his ability to play tight head – for which he is supposed to be picked. He should not have been on this tour.
Yet there is a squad of 30+. So surely there’s plenty of cover, I hear you say? There are 3 scrum halves, 3 fly halves, 3 hookers, and 3 full backs. Yet (due to its perceived danger) only lack of experienced front row players is allowed to lead to the fundamentally game-altering situation of un-opposed scrums. So where was the ‘cover’ for the front row position?
And who did the Lions have in the squad? Who did they have on the bench? Sheridan played heroically, but he was cover for Gethin Jenkins (who was immense too) at loose-head.
It’s pretty obvious in hindsight, that there was no cover for one of the most vital positions on the field – the tight head prop. Adam Jones showed previously that the Beast though massively strong, was nothing special – but with his injury – it was a whole new set of circumstances in the game, because there was no-one in the 22 players selected, able to cover for HIM, even though props are permitted to return even after substiution. It was a management gamble on a match-changing position, that did not come off – and the Lions and the supporters paid a heavy price for that.
So I’m sorry to repeat it, especially after so heroic a display by the Lions, but it remains my opinion that as in the first World War where generals were castigated for being ‘out of touch’ or worse, this Lions tour has been a case indeed of ‘Immensely brave Lions (and legions of their supporters) let down by management donkeys” – in forgetting a basic tenet of the game – that it must be won ‘up front’, and for failing to select adequately to do this. Perhaps after so intense a struggle, this seems harsh – but I’m just ‘telling it as I see it’.
And what a bloody shame we should be remembering yet another amazing game which we lost so narrowly!
5 changes in the line up from the first test, with Vickery dropped (thankfully) and Shaw selected (oh Dear!). But Fitzgerald starts, who has looked very dangerous in the tour matches which is a good move, but could be dangerous as his defence game is not the strongest.
Surprisingly Heaslip makes the starting 15, and Powell doesn't even make the bench, a mistake by the management we think. There are seven Irishmen in the starting XV, with six Welshmen and only two Englishmen, with Monya not even on the bench.
The crunch game, a must win for the Lions, is being played at altitude in Pretoria, the home of the Bulls. This will be a big disadvantage for the Lions, and will have to show that their fitness is better than the Bok, but the Bok are very unlikely to make the mistake of the first test which finished 26 v 21