O'Gara saves wary Lions from dockside mugging

Southern Kings 8 British & Irish Lions 20

There is always a "softening up" game at some point during a tour of South Africa and the Lions were softened to a pulp here in Port Elizabeth yesterday. The Southern Kings, a rag-tag team pieced together as a new franchise with Super 14 ambitions and playing their first game together, took aim at the visitors from the get-go and found their mark with unerring accuracy, leaving red-shirted victims laying in shallow graves across the Eastern Cape. They played some decent rugby too, in fairness to them, but the talk afterwards was of the overt physicality that summoned the spectre of a bygone age of mayhem.

To their credit, the tourists recovered from a desperate first half to exert a degree of authority after the break. There was a try for Ugo Monye in the right corner after a beautifully weighted cross-kick from the outstanding Ronan O'Gara, and a penalty try earned by the Lions scrummagers, who were in complete command at the set-piece. But they conceded a score to the excellent flanker Mpho Mbiyozo at the death and the price they paid for victory was heavy, especially with the first Test against the Springboks looming this weekend.

The Lions lost Euan Murray, their tight-head prop, to a sprained ankle after 10 minutes, and James Hook, their bright young outside-half, to a severe bout of grogginess a short while later – a departure that led to O'Gara's appearance off the bench. If there was no suggestion of dirty work in Murray's case, Hook's injury may or may not have been caused deliberately. Such was the venomous nature of the tackling, an accurate separation of the legal from the illegal was a difficult matter.

Much of the havoc was wreaked by the senior backs: the likes of the old English Premiership hands Jaco van der Westhuyzen, De Wet Barry, Frikkie Welsh and an astonishingly aggressive Wylie Human, who made a real mess of a few, including Hook and Joe Worsley. Human's inhumanity to man? It had a certain ring to it, although the man who ultimately incurred the displeasure of Nigel Owens, a very lenient referee, was Van der Westhuyzen, who spent time in the sin bin after clattering Riki Flutey with a thoroughly nasty head shot.

It is not exactly unknown for tour matches to turn wild in these parts. The biggest city in the Eastern Cape was the scene of the third and decisive Lions Test of the 1974 tour – a match that degenerated into one of the most notorious dockyard brawls in rugby history, with both sides throwing more haymakers than passes. Fifteen years ago, England came visiting and experienced something similar on a night when Jon Callard came within an inch of being scalped and Tim Rodber, the Northampton loose forward, was dismissed for aiming a flurry of punches at an opponent. Seconds before, he had said to the referee: "For Christ's sake, what do you have to do to get sent off around here?" It was, to be sure, an unfortunate question.

Those 15-rounders were fought out at the old Boet Erasmus Stadium, however. Yesterday, Port Elizabeth unveiled a spanking new venue named after one of the great conciliators of modern history. To say there was nothing conciliatory about the home side would be one of the understatements of the age, for within seconds of the kick-off the Southern Kings tackles were flying in thick and fast, hard and high, early and late. The Lions were rattled, massively. Indeed, it took them the entire opening period to sort themselves out, and even by the end of it they were at sixes and sevens.

Certainly, they were lucky to reach the break all square at 3-3, Van der Westhuyzen's penalty in the second minute having been cancelled out by O'Gara at the back end of the half. With the Southern Kings scrum-half Francois Hougaard working furiously at the heels of a pack who acquitted themselves well in all departments except the set-piece, and the hooker Derick Kuun making a pest of himself in the loose in close cahoots with Mbiyozo, the tourists were on the back foot far longer than anticipated. Van der Westhuyzen missed a couple of penalty chances, while the lock Marco Wentzel, who played for Leicester last season, almost created a try for Human. Only a wonderful saving tackle from O'Gara kept the line intact.

If the Lions had more about them after the restart, it was because the likes of Nathan Hines, playing out of position on the blind-side flank, had grown thoroughly sick of being smacked around. After a calming penalty from O'Gara on 44 minutes, the big Australian-born forward showed both aggression and sleight of hand to launch the attack leading to Monye's try, awarded after the video replay just about showed him grounding the ball legally ahead of the fumbling Matt Turner.

O'Gara then hit a post with as long-range shot before converting the penalty try, which resulted from Andrew Sheridan's comprehensive dismantling of Dean Greyling at a driving Lions scrum. It was a sure sign of the efficiency of the tourists' set-piece power and organisation. Unfortunately, the raw physical power required to draw the sting from 15 pumped-up South Africans around the field was noticeably lacking. Unless the problem is addressed quickly, the Test match in Durban could be a painful experience in more ways than one.

Scorers: Southern Kings: Try Mbiyozo; Penalty Van der Westhuyzen. British and Irish Lions: Tries Monye, penalty; Conversions O'Gara 2; Penalties O'Gara 2.

Southern Kings: T Mangweni; W Human (M Stick, 57), F Welsh (B Fortuin, 9-18), D Barry, M Turner; J Van der Westhuyzen, F Hougaard (J Fowles, 41); J Engels (D Du Preez, 41-54), D Kuun (capt), R Vermeulen (D Greyling, 14), R Skeate, M Wentzel, S Tyibilika (D Van Schalkwyk, 69), M Mbiyozo, D Nell.

British and Irish Lions: K Earls (Ireland); U Monye (England), R Flutey (England), G D'Arcy (Ireland), L Fitzgerald (Ireland); J Hook (Wales), M Blair (Scotland); A Sheridan (England), R Ford (Scotland), E Murray (Scotland), S Shaw (England), D O'Callaghan (Ireland, capt), N Hines (Scotland), J Worsley (England), A Powell (Wales). Replacements: A Jones (Wales) for Murray, 10; R O'Gara (Ireland) for Hook, 16; S Williams (Wales) for Monye, 67; M Rees (Wales) for Ford, 67.

Referee: N Owens (Wales).

0

The number of games the Southern Kings had played before facing the British and Irish Lions in Port Elizabeth yesterday.

Arts & Entertainment
A stranger calls: Martin Freeman in ‘Fargo’
tvReview: New 10-part series brims with characters and stories

News
peopleActress speaks out against historic sexual assault claims, saying things have 'gone quite far now'

Arts & Entertainment
Shaun Evans as Endeavour interviews a prisoner as he tries to get to the bottom of a police cover up
Review: Second series comes to close with startling tale of police corruption and child abuse
Sport
Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez celebrate during Liverpool's game with Norwich
football Another hurdle is out of the way for Brendan Rodgers' side
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Life & Style
Guests enjoy food and cocktail parings by Chefs Jimmy Bannos, Jimmy Bannos Jr, Daniel Rose and Mindy Segal with mixologists Josh King and Alex Gara at Bounty & Barrel: A Jack Daniel's Single Barrel Dinner Series at Heaven on Seven on April 9, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois.
news Sprinkle Palcohol 'on almost any dish' for 'an extra kick' firm says...
Arts & Entertainment
Charlotte Brontë, the English novelist, poet and the eldest of the three Bronte sisters who lived into adulthood, has been celebrated with a Google Doodle depicting her most famous novel, Jane Eyre.
arts + ents "Reader, they doodled her".

Arts & Entertainment
Schwarzenegger winning Mr. Universe 1969
arts + entsCan you guess the celebrity from these British Pathe News clips?
News
Portrait of Queen Elizabeth-II by David Bailey which has been released to mark her 88th birthday
peoplePortrait released to mark monarch's 88th birthday
Arts & Entertainment
The star of the sitcom ‘Miranda’ is hugely popular with mainstream audiences
TVMiranda Hart lined up for ‘Generation Game’ revival
Life & Style
The writer, Gerda Saunders, with her mother, who also suffered with dementia before her death
healthGerda Saunders on the most formidable effect of her dementia
Arts & Entertainment
Oxegen in Ireland has been axed as promoters decide it is 'no longer viable'
arts + ents Promoters have axed the event as it is 'no longer viable in current form'
News
The troubled star is set to give fans the biggest insight into her life away from the headlines
people Star made the announcement during the final episode of the programme, entitled Lindsay
News
YouTube clocks up more than a billion users a month
mediaEuropean rival Dailymotion certainly thinks so
Arts & Entertainment
The original design with Charles' face clearly visible, which is on display around the capital
arts + ents
Arts & Entertainment
‘Self-Portrait Worshipping Christ’ (c943-57) by St Dunstan
books How British artists perfected the art of the self-portrait
Caption competition
Caption competition
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter: The man who could have been champion of the world - and the Bob Dylan song that immortalised him

The man who could have been champion of the world

Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter and the Bob Dylan song that immortalised him
Didn’t she do well?

Didn’t she do well?

Miranda Hart lined up for ‘Generation Game’ revival
The Middle East we must confront in the future will be a Mafiastan ruled by money

The Middle East we must confront in the future will be a Mafiastan ruled by money

In Iraq, mafiosi already run almost the entire oil output of the south of the country
Before they were famous

Before they were famous

Can you guess the celebrity from these British Pathe News clips?
Martin Freeman’s casting in Fargo is genius

Martin Freeman’s casting in Fargo is a stroke of genius

Series is brimming with characters and stories all its own
How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players