Rugby Union: First blood to roaring Lions

Dawson's dummy sets up historic victory for tourists as frustrated Springboks run into red brick wall
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South Africa 16 British Isles 25

Try: du Randt, 23 Tries: Dawson, 73

Bennett, 44 Tait, 79

Pens: Lubbe, 3 Pens: Jenkins, 6, 33, 35,

Honiball, 50 43, 62

The Lions are roaring, the world champions are drowning their sorrows. Two wonderful tries in the final seven minutes of an emotional encounter - one a nonchalant solo effort from Matt Dawson, the other an injury-time passing movement finished off by Alan Tait - gave the British Isles their fourth Test victory over South Africa in Cape Town and a priceless advantage in the three-match series.

Not since Willie-John McBride's immortals of 1974 had the Lions won the first Test of any series. Yesterday, Martin Johnson's men produced a rearguard action to rival that of John Dawes' men against New Zealand in Dunedin 26 years ago and if the rest of this rubber pans out in the same way, British rugby will be on its greatest high in a generation.

Dawson, in the side only because of Rob Howley's unfortunate injury, came after 73 minutes of compelling, pulsating and shatteringly physical international rugby. He gave Kruger the slip on the short-side of a scrum 30 metres out, dummied one-handed to Ieuan Evans to throw Gary Teichmann, the Springbok captain, off the scent and then almost ambled, easy as you like, to the right corner.

The Northampton scrum-half's memorable effort was then improved in injury time by Tait, who took advantage of a fierce drive by Jason Leonard and a typically bullocking run from Scott Gibbs to stride jubilantly over in the opposite corner. It was a stunning conclusion, one that silenced the fanatics of Cape Town as surely as a vow of silence.

Jim Telfer, the Lions' straight-talking assistant coach, predicted that a crescendo of energy would surge through the previously closeted and cosseted Boks in the opening stages. What he did not predict was the deafening crescendo of noise that greeted Teichmann's side and the tourists would have been less than human had they not been shaken to their collective core.

Under the circumstances, the Lions needed control from the start. Sadly, it went missing from the first second as Neil Jenkins overstruck his kick- off, planted it into touch on the full and subjected Tom Smith, Keith Wood and Paul Wallace to a defensive scrum they could have done without. Sure enough, du Randt and the Bokke heavies made a major mess of the visitors' set-piece, Henry Honiball sank a wind-assisted touchfinder to within eight metres and when Johnson lost his first line-out ball, Wallace dropped the ensuing scrum under pressure for Edrich Lubbe to sink a simple penalty.

Jenkins made up for his lapse four minutes later, however, potting an equalising penalty following some slippery running from Dawson and a couple of up and at 'em charges from Wood and Johnson. These were trying times for the Lions, though; with Joost van der Westhuizen and Henry Honiball linking sweetly at half-back and Ruben Kruger making his inimitable presence felt in the loose, the Springboks were able to use the surfeit of possession from Mark Andrews to exert massive pressure in all the right areas.

The Lions did well enough to shore up the foundations during one prolonged bout of Bokke assault and battery, Dawson putting in thr bravest of hits on the rampaging Os du Randt and Wood burrowing under the opposition to slow two vital ruck balls. But the fissures in the edifice became apparent when Wallace conceded his second scrummaging penalty. James Small toe- poked the ball into touch five metres out, Andrews took a perfect catch at the middle of the line-out and du Randt, all 20-odd stones of him, blew Lawrence Dallaglio and Tim Rodber away en route to the line for an unconverted try.

It was now that the Lions' religiously-honed team spirit faced its first major test and they passed the examination with something to spare. Smith, Wood and Johnson set the tone with some outstanding work in and around the loose exchanges and even though Jenkins was wide with a penalty on 27 minutes, reward was not long in coming.

Hard driving from the awkward Smith put the Boks on the back foot to such an extent that three of them dragged down a maul to present Jenkins with a short-range three-pointer to the right of the posts. Within a minute, the Welsh full-back was back on the scoreboard in similar fashion having taken full advantage of Andre Joubert's uncharacteristic fumble.

Behind for the first time, the Boks shifted up half a gear towards the interval. Van der Westhuizen chipped cleverly towards the right corner flag for Andrews to set Japie Mulder hurtling towards the line. Again, the Lions' secondary defence was good enough.

Du Randt was immediately penalised on the restart for a bulldozing but thoroughly illegal charge into a ruck - Jenkins did the necessary again to give the Lions a four-point advantage - and when Andrews went clambering into a breakdown a couple of minutes later, Hawke's patience appeared to be running thin.

Unfortunately for the tourists, those two incidents were separated by the Springboks' second try finished off with considerable aplomb by Russell Bennett, who had just entered the fray as a replacement for Lubbe. Kruger rescued precious possession on the Lions' 22 and quick hands sent Teichmann galloping deep into the soft underbelly of the Lions' defence. Unusually, Gibbs missed the Bokke captain, who promptly found Bennett with a one- handed round-the-corner pass to usher the Border full-back into the corner.

When Honiball landed a 50th minute penalty following another infringement by Wallace the Lions were severely on their uppers. This was eased when Jenkins landed a fifth penalty following some blatant shirt-tugging by Kruger and spirits rose still further when Bennett's second try was ruled out because of a forward pass from Andre Venter. Then came Dawson's numbing solo strike and Tait's coup de grace to signal a huge night out for the Barmy Army Brits in the stands and an even bigger one for sixteen proud men in red shirts.

South Africa: A Joubert (Natal); J Small (Western Province), J Mulder (Gauteng), E Lubbe (Griqualand West), A Snyman (Northern Transvaal); H Honiball (Natal), J van der Westhuizen (Northern Transvaal); P du Randt (Free State), N Drotske (Free State), A Garvey (Natal), M Andrews (Natal), H Strydom (Gauteng), R Kruger (Northern Transvaal), G Teichmann (Natal, capt), A Venter (Free State). Replacement: R Bennett (Border) for Lubbe, h-t.

British Isles: N Jenkins (Pontypridd and Wales); I Evans (Llanelli and Wales), J Guscott (Bath and England), S Gibbs (Swansea and Wales), A Tait (Newcastle and Scotland); G Townsend (Northampton and Scotland), M Dawson (Northampton and England); T Smith (Watsonians and Scotland), K Wood (Harlequins and Ireland), P Wallace (Saracens and Ireland), M Johnson (Leicester and England, capt), J Davidson (London Irish and Ireland), L Dallaglio (Wasps and England), T Rodber (Northampton and England), R Hill (Saracens and England). Replacement: J Leonard (Harlequins and England) for Smith, 79.

Referee: C Hawke (New Zealand).

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