Planet Rugby

The British & Irish Lions


Lions left hanging by Emerging Boks

23rd June 2009 19:58


Luke Fitzgerald v Emerging Boks

Taking control: Luke Fitzgerald makes an early burst

For some of the 2009 British and Irish Lions the tour to South Africa ended with a 13-13 draw against the Emerging Springboks in Cape Town on Tuesday.

Willem de Waal's magnificent last-minute conversion, into the teeth of the howling gale and in bucketing rain, clinched the shared spoils for his side, sparking mad scenes of jubilation on the sidelines.

In a match of remarkably reasonable quality considering the revolting weather, Ian McGeechan's dirt-trackers dug deep to take the game by the scruff of the neck early on.

But the Emerging Boks found an extra yard of tempo in the second half, culminating in Danwel Demas' terrific last-minute try and that kick by De Waal.

Most of the talking points from the game would have concerned the individuals who could yet make the Test team. Did Ronan O'Gara, Luke Fitzgerald, Shane Williams, Martyn Williams, Andy Powell and any of the locks do enough to crack the latest of nods?

In all honesty, probably not. Of the that group, O'Gara, Martyn Williams, Powell and possibly Nathan Hines could end up on the bench for the second Test, but no one player delivered enough quality to usurp any of the players left to freshen up for Saturday's assault on Loftus Versfeld.

O'Gara was taken off early, which might hint at his being kept fresh but which was more likely to be down to the wound on his chin that was gushing claret at the time of his exit. Hines was also taken off early-ish, but there was a pressing need for Simon Shaw's physicality in terms of the Lions game-plan late in the game: namely to hold on and ride out the possible win.

What was extremely worrying was that there was simply nobody able to up the pace and break the line. Far too much of this was rugby by numbers, percentage stuff with all the players concentrating so much on holding the possession. There was no inkling of anybody injecting the flair required to turn the game their way, no sign of any spontaneous invention or initiative that could have taken the game beyond reach of the Emerging Boks. The Lions paid for that more than anything else.

In that area, the seasoned internationals in the red shirts were shown up by the upstarts in green, who by definition don't have a cap between them. Earl Rose, Morgan Newman, Heinie Adams and Bjorn Basson all enhanced their reputations, while the pack, almost to a man, was half a yard faster than their counterparts. Where the Lions painted by numbers, the Emerging Boks found snapshots of glorious techincolour

It started well for the tourists. They played the ball down in the Emerging Boks half, playing a pressure game and waiting for the hosts to crack. O'Gara had two early penalty attempts, one blown a mile off by the wind, the other sailing through the poles for an 8th-minute lead.

Then the Lions were gifted the try their early domination had warranted. Zane Kirchner's kick was charged down, Riki Flutey was hauled down a few yards short but when the ball came back to Keith Earls, the Irishman showed great swagger in stepping inside Newman to score under the sticks, with O'Gara making it 10-0 with the extras.

Rose had a chance to narrow the gap with a penalty, but as he placed the ball on the tee the skies opened, deluging those present with a battering of hailstones whipped into faces by the stinging wind. Needless to say, Rose was off-target.

But the Emerging Boks were upping the heat. O'Gara's defence was twice called into question, once by a Rose step inside, then from a bulldozing run by Jean Deysel who knocked O'Gara out of the way with disdain.

Rose did get his points, after the Emerging Boks had run a tap penalty exhilaratingly through the hands 50 metres down the right before knocking on but stealing the subsequent scrum and forcing Donncha O'Callaghan to meddle on the ground.

That was the scoring for the half, with the men in green finishing it much the stronger. That was more or less how the second half started too, despite the Lions' best efforts at controlling the ball.

Rose landed his second penalty as his side did the meaningful attacking, and while James Hook brought some extra zip to the Lions' handling, none of the Lions backs found any measure of creativity in their running lines or movement to open up the opposition.

The red pack worked feverishly, rewarded with three minutes to go by a penalty which Hook landed to make it 13-6.

But Rose knocked a superb late penalty to touch seven metres from the Lions line, and then a back-row move involving Duane Vermeulen and Deysel brought Dewald Potgieter to two metres.

Tiaan Liebenberg took the ball on, then came Adams' lightning pick and pass wide, which gave De Waal room to suck defenders in and the replacement fly-half room to flip a long ball out to Demas for the try, as the clock ticked over 80 minutes.

The heavens opened once again as De Waal lined up his kick, but the former Cheetahs pivot has been through more and worse then that. His kick rose and rose, passing narrowly inside the right-hand upright as it began to fall and sending the Emerging Boks' bench jumping all over the side of the pitch as Alain Rolland blew for no-side.

Man of the match: Take a bow Jean Deysel. As good a flanking performance as any seen in a green shirt in Durban on Saturday. And they were no slouches.

Moment of the match: The single crucial moment was Heinie Adams' lightning pass that opened up the field for the equalising try.

Villain of the match: A few flashpoints - many of the involving Nathan Hines. But the sight of him holding two Emerging Boks at arm's length with a big grin on his face was as comical as it was punchy and cancels out any villainy in his act. No award.

The scorers:

For the Emerging Springboks:

Try: Demas

Pens: Rose 2

For the Lions:

Try: Earls

Con: O'Gara

Pens: O'Gara, Hook

Emerging Springboks: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Luzuko Vulindlu, 13 Deon van Rensburg, 12 Morgan Newman, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Earl Rose, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Jean Deysel, 6 Dewald Potgieter (captain), 5 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 4 Steven Sykes, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Bandise Maku, 1 Wian du Preez.

Replacements: 16 Tiaan Liebenberg, 17 Patric Cilliers, 18 Franco van der Merwe, 19 Jacques Botes, 20 Heini Adams, 21 Willem de Waal, 22 Danwel Demas.

British & Irish Lions: 15 Keith Earls, 14 Shane Williams, 13 Riki Flutey, 12 Gordon D'Arcy, 11 Luke Fitzgerald, 10 Ronan O'Gara (captain), 9 Harry Ellis, 8 Andy Powell, 7 Martyn Williams, 6 Joe Worsley, 5 Nathan Hines, 4 Donncha O'Callaghan, 3 John Hayes, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Tim Payne

Replacements: 16 Lee Mears, 17 Phil Vickery, 18 Simon Shaw, 19 David Wallace, 20 Mike Blair, 21 James Hook, 22 Ugo Monye

Referee: Alain Rolland (Ireland)

Assistant referee: Nigel Owens (Wales), Craig Joubert (South Africa)

TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)

By Danny Stephens in Cape Town