SPRINGBOKS 19-16 LIONS
Once again, just like the last Lions Tour to South Africa, Morné Steyn was the Springboks hero with a clutch kick. Our Lions player ratings are littered with guys that left it all out there.
The Lions were the dominant team in the first half and the only wonder was that they only led 10-6 at the break. The tourists got over the loss of Dan Biggar, early on, to score through Ken Owens – off an attacking maul.
Finn Russell nailed his two kicks but the Lions left a couple of solid scores behind them.
The Lions may have been regretting the points that got away, as the second half started, but it was time for the hosts to regret spurned chances in the opening 15 minutes, after the break. Handré Pollard missed two pops at goal and the four-point lead was intact.
All was not lost, though, as the Springboks broke after a scramble from an Ali Price box-kick. Willie Le Roux drew in Jack Conan and teed up Cheslin Kolbe for a one-on-one with Liam Williams that the wing genius made count. Pollard, buoyed by that score, made it 13-10 with 24 minutes to go.
With Finn Russell and sub Morné Steyn trading penalties, it was 16-13 to the hosts as we headed into the final 10 minutes. The Lions went for an attacking lineout, after turning down a handy penalty kick, but the Boks resisted superbly.
Russell did land a penalty after a brilliant Robbie Henshaw carry but, just like 2009, the 37-year-old Morné Steyn converted the winning penalty. Heartbreak for the Lions, but all credit to the Springboks after winning the series following a long, long lay-off.
LIONS PLAYER RATINGS
Liam Williams – 6
Took a couple of incredible aerial takes. So assured up there. Missed a pass to Josh Adams that would’ve led to a try. Was left for dead by Cheslin Kolbe for his try.
Josh Adams – 6
Won his side a big turnover after Henshaw’s strong tackle. Much bigger attacking threat than Anthony Watson. Got into one scoring position but the pass did not come. Fell off a couple of second half tackles.
Robbie Henshaw – 8
His tenacity in defence was to the for again. Took down a couple of the big Bok bruisers. MASSIVE carry to win his side the 16-16 penalty.
Bundee Aki – 7
Showed in the first half why he should have been in for the entire Test Series. Strong carries and fierce in defence.
Duhan van der Merwe – 7
Made one brilliant first half carry that left plenty of Boks in his wake. Got his side front-foot ball and stuck his tackles.
Dan Biggar – 5
Missed his only penalty attempt and limped off soon after.
Ali Price – 6
Really helped with that quicker Lions tempo. Had one box-kick charged down in the first half. Batteries went flat as the Boks pressed on after the break.
Wyn Jones – 6
Solid start but gave away a scrum penalty, on 35 minutes, soon after getting treatment for a knock. Stuck his two tackles and made a couple of carries.
Ken Owens – 7
Lineout was much better and he bashed over for an attacking maul try. Made seven carries and stuck six tackles.
Tadhg Furlong – 7
Won his side a big scrum penalty, on 15 minutes. Once again held up his side of the scrum. Tackled well. Oddly enough, did not make a single carry.
Maro Itoje – 8
Made one bullocking carry that was so good that he was left isolated inside the Bok 22 and was turned over. All action from the England lock. Won the 80th minute restart.
Alun Wyn Jones – 7
Will be disappointed that he allowed Etzebeth in for a turnover at a ruck inside the Lions half. Left it all out there. Five carries, seven tackles and threw in a couple of offloads too.
Courtney Lawes – 7
A lot more involved and showing for carries than the Second Test. Brilliant lineout take, near the end.
Tom Curry – 6
Penalised for rejoining an attacking maul after peeling off. Won a big penalty inside the Springbok 22. Was then harshly penalised for not releasing Kolisi, just outside the 22… but Pollard missed. Pinged again, though, for not releasing the ball, on 64 minutes.
Jack Conan – 7
Made seven carries in an extremely busy and positive first half. Huge charge-down to spurn the Boks advances, early in the second half. Bundled Wiese into touch after he claimed a high kick. Spilled the ball forward, soon after though. Had to stick on Le Roux for the Kolbe try.
Finn Russell (for Biggar ’10) – 8
Such a brave player. Came on early for Biggar and looked every inch a Lions 10. Brave cross-kick and kicks to the corner for attacking mauls. Landed his efforts off the tee, too. Won and converted a crucial 62-minute penalty. Landed the 16-16 equaliser. Cursed himself after a knock-on.
Mako Vunipola (for Jones ’40) – 7
First real involvement was to concede a scrum penalty. Won his side a penalty at the breakdown, but a call against Russell scrubbed it.
Luke Cowan-Dickie (for Owens ’56) – 7
Made some bulling, low carries as the Lions fought to reduce the deficit.
Kyle Sinckler (for Furlong ’59) – 6
Won a scrum penalty just after coming on. Punished for dropping his knee on the ground at a crucial, late scrum.
Conor Murray (for Price ’59) – 6
Adam Beard (for Alun Wyn Jones ’60) – 5
Sam Simmonds (for Conan ’60) – 6
Solid on the restarts, even though the Boks seemed to target him there.
LISTEN TO HOUSE OF RUGBY’S LIONS SERIES: EPISODE 9