Dan Biggar’s boot proved the difference as the British & Irish Lions came from behind to beat South Africa 22-17 in an attritional first test in Cape Town on Saturday.
Biggar kicked four penalties and a conversion for a 14-point personal tally to take the Lions to victory after they were 12-3 down at halftime but came back strongly in the second half.
Luke Cowan-Dickie scored the Lions‘ only try with Owen Farrell adding a key late penalty while the Springboks’ points came from a Faf de Klerk try and four first-half penalties from Handre Pollard.
The two teams meet again next Saturday in the second test, also at the Cape Town Stadium.
Maro Itoje won the Player of the Match, telling Sky Sports: “These moments don’t come that often in your career. It’s a real privilege to where this jersey and to win as well is special.
“We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves. We want to come out and do the business next week. We had to tidy up our discipline. We did in the second half and we had the mental fortitude to see it through.”
South Africa 17-19 Lions, 74 minutes
That change means Alun Wyn Jones is going to go 80 minutes less than a month after dislocating his shoulder. The bionic man is shepherding his troops well, another high kick from Conor Murray fumbled by South Africa after a well organised chase, and the Lions advance to beyond the opposite ten-metre for a scrum. Time ticking away for South Africa - can they find a winning score?
South Africa 17-19 Lions, 73 minutes
Both sides are desperate not to hang on to the ball for too long in midfield. It’s one carry, kick for the Lions after a lineout near halfway, and South Africa kick long even as counter-attacking possibilities appear to present themselves on the left two possessions later. Lions lineout, with Tadhg Beirne replacing Courtney Lawes before it is thrown.
NO TRY! South Africa 17-19 Lions, 71 minutes
This is another difficult one. Cheslin Kolbe and Liam Williams had gone up for the high ball and each get a hand to it, and it appears it might have gone forwards from Kolbe’s hand last as it spills free from the knotted arms.
No try! It has gone forward from Kolbe! Try chalked off, and Elliot Daly is a lucky boy, too - he probably would have been shown yellow for a very cynical tug back on a chasing South African before the try was scored by Damian De Allende. But we remain as we are and the Lions will have the scrum feed.
Try? We are going upstairs again! South Africa 17-19 Lions, 71 minutes
The ball is thrown loosely away in the Lions backfield and South Africa toe the ball over the line and appear to have grounded, but has there been a knock-on in the air beforehand?
South Africa 17-19 Lions, 70 minutes
A big change for South Africa - Handre Pollard’s race looks emphatically run as he drags himself from the pitch, apparently exhausted. Elton Jantjies comes on - a big moment for a fly-half who has had a career of ups and downs. He could have a huge role to play in these last ten minutes.
South Africa 17-19 Lions, 70 minutes
Ouch! Ken Owens takes one right in the money-maker as Cheslin Kolbe absolutely thumps a punt into his schnoz from close range. More nasally bothersome than a Covid test, that.
South Africa did have the advantage for a knock-on and Kolbe’s kick was so poor that Nic Berry is content to go back for a scrum.
South Africa 17-19 Lions, 68 minutes
Revenge for Mako Vunipola! He was given a proper working over in the World Cup final by Frans Malherbe but destroys the tighthead here. Vunipola earns a penalty and continues an impressive appearance from the bench, showing his value having been asked to step up at late notice after the unfortunate Wyn Jones pulled out injured.
The Lions can’t capitalise as South Africa manage to skew a fast-moving maul over the touchline as the Lions are perhaps guilty of getting carried away with the pace of their drive.
South Africa 17-19 Lions, 67 minutes
Good defence from Robbie Henshaw! The South Africans find some attacking verve, playing with tempo for the first time in a while and trying to exploit spaces to the outside as they get over the gainline.
Lukhanyo Am darts into one of those spaces but Henshaw crabs across quickly, and dislodges the ball as Am looks to release his pass. Knocked on.
That doesn’t look good for the Lions, though - Dan Biggar has taken a bang to the head and will have to be assessed. He looks a little groggy, too. Elliot Daly is permitted to return as it is an HIA replacement, so Henshaw shifts to 12 and Owen Farrell may see out the remainder of this game at fly-half.
South Africa 17-19 Lions, 66 minutes
Owen Farrell is brought on by the Lions for the final fifteen minutes. Elliot Daly’s trudge off reveals Robbie Henshaw will shift out one to 13 with Farrell stepping in at inside centre. Kyle Sinckler arrives, too, with Tadhg Furlong having gone 65 minutes on the tighthead.
Damian Willemse replaces Willie Le Roux, perhaps sore from that Hamish Watson tackle, at full back.
Missed penalty! South Africa 17-19 Lions, 65 minutes
I cannot believe they aren’t checking this. Marius Jonker stays silent as Nic Berry says it is just a penalty, but Watson appeared to tilt Le Roux far beyond the horizontal and drive him down upon the top of his shoulder and head. It’s a yellow at least, you’d think, if we have a formal review, but South Africa will have just a penalty...
Which Handre Pollard pulls to the left of the uprights! A big miss from the South Africa fly-half, who has played limited rugby this year.
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