Lions lament loss of brutal Test match

A stunning final minute penalty goal by Morne Steyn nailed the Lions and sealed the Test series in Pretoria.

But the Lions coaching management made only thinly disguised attempts to mask their belief that it was an incident in the opening minute of the match that was the crucial act in a brutal, rip-roaring Test match of fearsome physicality.

Springbok flanker Schalk Burger got away with only a yellow card for attacking the eyes of Lions wing Luke Fitzgerald straight from the kick off. Clearly, French referee Christophe Berdos bottled it. The Springboks should have played the entire Test with 14 men.

Lions coach Ian McGeechan admitted “We haven’t had the rub of the green in some of the decisions in both Tests, last week or this week. But whatever the reason, you have just got to accept it. It is not something that can be changed.

“But we could have been leaving here with two wins under our belts. Certainly, the two performances the players put in were very impressive.

“Nobody gave us a hope on this tour. But we have been incredibly competitive and have been winners in a lot of respects.”

McGeechan insisted there was no need for the Lions to cite Burger. Having heard the conversation between the referee and New Zealand touch judge Bryce Lawrence who is alleged to have said “It should be AT LEAST (my italics) a yellow card”, McGeechan was sure the citing officer would now act.

The Lions coach also bemoaned the injuries which proved so disruptive to the team. Both props departed, in the 46th minute, and later the Lions’ star centres Brian O’Driscoll and Jamie Roberts were also forced off. Crucially, this revealed the thin layer of real talent in this squad and the reserves were just not up to it, as Ronan O’Gara’s ill-starred late contribution showed.

“Until the injuries we were playing a lot of good rugby again” said McGeechan. “But it is disappointing we have given South Africa another opportunity they probably should not have had.”

Captain Paul O’Connell spoke of his quiet pride at the performance of his men. For 50 minutes, they had the world champions all over the place, wobbling like a blancmange. But they couldn’t quite finish it off. O’Connell called it “a big opportunity lost.

“I am very proud of the effort. It is a big challenge….the Lions coming together as a team. As teams around the world get more and more professional it gets harder for the Lions. It takes a lot of open mindedness and a lot of hard work to do that.

“We have been unlucky. We made a few mistakes at times but I am incredibly proud of the lads not just in the Test matches but in the effort getting us here.”

McGeechan echoed such sentiments, adding “I am very proud of the players, they don’t deserve to be 2-down in the Test series. There were some tremendous performances out there today.

“The injuries disrupted us in the second half but you have got to get on with that. You hope to keep a tempo and continuity but unfortunately we didn’t.”

It fell to Ronan O’Gara to be the fall guy in the crucial last few minutes. O’Gara badly missed Jaque Fourie as he smashed his way down the touchline to score the vital try. Then, in the final move of the game, O’Gara tried to run out of defence, hoisted a high kick and tackled Fourie du Preez while he was still in the air. Morne Steyn’s subsequent penalty killed the Lions stone dead.

O’Connell admitted “He is very disappointed as you can imagine. There is not a lot you can say. These are tough times for everyone.”

Springbok captain John Smit admitted “It was an uphill battle for us from the moment Schalk Burger was yellow carded. But it is quite ironic that in the 1997 Lions series here, a single kick was decisive in the Lions favour. This time, they lost to a single kick.

“The guys are delighted but it was a colossal match. I don’t think we have had a worse start to a Test match ever. There were some firm words spoken at half time but this was a proper Test match. We may have let the country down last week by not producing the best rugby but this week made up for that.”

Springbok coach Peter de Villiers said “After such a bad start to the game, it showed the character of this team that we could come back and win in the end. We never make life easy for ourselves.

“We played against the best of Europe and this was a brilliant Lions side. It was very tough out there and we must take our hats off to the boys for getting through that terrific challenge from the Lions. We have waited 12 years for this opportunity and to get this achievement after being world champions two years ago is wonderful. I am so glad we could stand up to the challenge.”

The Lions admitted they have “three or four” injuries which could be severe and might keep key men out of next Saturday’s final Test. They will assess them tomorrow.

Voices
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
fashion
News
news... you won't believe how bad their skills were
News
people

Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright and Mark Wright
tvStrictly goes head-to-head with Apprentice
Sport
footballPremier League preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's clashes
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas