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.

BUY RUGBY WORLD CUP TICKETS

Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
tv
Sport
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Voices
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
music
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Sport
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
art
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

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine