Springboks come up short as British and Irish Lions win first Test in Cape Town
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CAPE TOWN – The British & Irish Lions produced a stunning second-half comeback to beat the Springboks 22-17 in the Series-opener at Cape Town Stadium on Saturday evening.
The game started off at a great intensity, and the Springboks were the first to get points when Handre Pollard hit his target in the opening quarter (3-0). The hosts’ 12-3 lead at half time was courtesy of his boot.
The flyhalf, playing in his 50th game, did a solid job at controlling things. His contributions off the tee were characteristically pleasing, and the calm and presence he brought was a great sight, especially considering how long he spent on the sidelines with a knee injury and his isolation period, which of course disrupted his training and preparation time with the team.
Lukhanyo Am can feel chuffed with more than just that big hit in the first half – he led the backline in superb fashion, while he also added a few top individual touches.
Given the Springboks’ scrummaging repertoire, it was the shoving battle naturally going to be a big feature in this game. The first scrum is always an important one, and it went the way of the Boks, and not much changed in that regard as the game progressed.
The Lions just gave away too many penalties in the first half, and the fact that it became a bigger issue as the clock ticked on in the first 40 probably shows how the hosts’ upper hand got to them.
One major positive about the Springboks’ game was the overall work done around the park and how everybody got stuck in. Their vigour on defence was huge in the first half.
Seeing more ball go to that dangerous backline would have been nice, and expecting them to have done more with the control they showed in the opening half would perhaps not have been too big a presumption, especially when you consider how Robbie Henshaw’s break in the first half was about the only time the Lions really looked set to do something big.
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The Lions got the second half off to the perfect start with a converted try by Luke Cowan-Dickie (12-10). The Boks hit back with a try of their own, but it was disallowed as Willie le Roux – who grounded the ball – was ahead of the kicker.
They got to celebrate the real deal when Faf de Klerk got the Boks’ first try (17-10).
The Tourists enjoyed more territory after the break, something that was influenced by the world champions’ inability to effectively handle the Lions’ box kicks in the second half.
Biggar added two more penalty goals to make it a one-point game after 56 minutes, and connected a penalty early in the last quarter to put them in the lead for the first time in the match (17-19).
Pollard had the chance to go ahead on the scoreboard again shortly afterwards, but sent it wide.
Things took a big turn as the second half progressed. The Lions started stretching the Boks’ defence really well in the third quarter, while the hosts struggled with the aerial battle and just couldn’t get out of their own half. Their discipline also let them down big time.
The Lions went five points up with two minutes to go when replacement Owen Farrell added the side’s fifth penalty (17-22).
From there on, only a try would have saved the Boks, but knock-on in the carry once the time was up ended the match.
Springboks: 17 – Try: Faf de Klerk Penalties: Pollard (4)
Lions: 22 – Try: Luke Cowan-Dickie Conversion: Dan Biggar Penalties: Biggar (4), Owen Farrell