Jacques Nienaber’s South Africa have levelled the Castle Lager lions Series with their 27-9 win over the British and Irish Lions in Cape Town.
The victory came largely thanks to the boot of Handre Pollard and Joe Harvey watched on from afar on behalf of TRU…
Following a week of build up like no other Lions Test match before it, within minutes the days of bitterness clearly had an effect on early proceedings.
After Alun Wyn Jones and Eben Etzebeth had introduced themselves to one another with some collar grabbing, Handre Pollard opened the scoring after the tourists had strayed offside, the fly-half striking a penalty through the uprights.
Just minutes later, Dan Biggar levelled the scores following a dangerous tackle from the Springboks and the Welshman gave his team the lead not long after, Cheslin Kolbe putting making a head-on-head collision with Tom Curry, but escaped any significant punishment.
Shortly after, Pollard missed the opportunity to draw the game level, Scotland wing Duhan van der Merwe was sent to the sin-bin for tripping up Kolbe, who would be in hot water once more not long after.
Robbie Henshaw is denied a try after there was no clear evidence to overturn the on-field call... what was ???????? verdict? ??— Sky Sports Rugby Union (@SkySportsRugby) July 31, 2021
?? The second half is underway now - watch live on Sky Sports Lions as #LionsRugby look to wrap up their #BoksvLions series against South Africa. pic.twitter.com/2c0qzzJ2Hh
Upending Lions scrum-half Conor Murray with a challenge in the air, tempers boiled, and it quickly became a question about how much punishment each team would receive. Eventually shown a yellow card, Kolbe’s time on the touchline compounded the loss of Pieter-Steph du Toit to injury some minutes earlier, with Kwagga Smith having taken to the field.
Such was the stop-start nature of the game and how finely balanced the fixture was, South Africa levelled things up with another kick from the tee, the two sides completely inseparable and each team unable to maintain momentum.
With the Lions restored to their full complement, it seemed as though the men in red had made their breakthrough. Robbie Henshaw had crossed over the whitewash, but there was no evidence of grounding, Ben O’Keeffe going back to a prior infringement, Biggar nudging his team ahead once more.
With less than five minutes played in the second period, South Africa took apparent control of the fixture. Able to maintain possession for multiple phases, Pollard picked out Makazole Mapimpi with a cross-field kick, the wing scoring the opening try.
The Montpellier man was unable to convert the score, a two-point difference between the two teams meaning it was anyone’s game. From the subsequent restart, this was seen, Jasper Wiese spilling the ball forward and the Lions winning the set-piece at the penalty, eventually winning a penalty that cannoned off the woodwork.
It was an error compounded by Lukhanyo Am’s 60th minute try coming from a Faf de Klerk grubber, this time the Springboks benefitting from their rolling maul. Pollard made no mistake from the tee, giving the Boks a nine-point lead.
From then on, it was the Springboks game. Penalties were shipped by the Lions in all aspects of the game, eventually allowing Pollard to extend that all-important lead to 12 points.
No matter what the Lions did, there was always an answer from those in green, the tone being set for what will be a tightly contested final Test of the series next Saturday in Cape Town.
Trevor Nyakane came off the bench at loosehead prop, a position he hadn’t played for the Boks since 2017, and quite frankly dominated Kyle Sinckler, allowing Pollard to extend that lead even more with is boot.
Appropriately, another kick from the fly-half brought proceedings to an end. It’s all to play for next Saturday.
British & Irish Lions: Hogg; A Watson, Harris, Henshaw, Van der Merwe; Biggar, Murray; Vunipola, Cowan-Dickie, Furlong, Itoje, AW Jones, Lawes, Curry, Conan.
Replacements: Owens, Sutherland, Sinckler, Beirne, Faletau, Price, Farrell, Daly.
South Africa: Le Roux; Kolbe, Am, De Allende, Mapimpi; Pollard, De Klerk; Kitshoff, Mbonambi, Malherbe, Etzebeth, Mostert, Kolisi, Du Toit, Wiese
Replacements: Marx, Nyakane, Koch, De Jager, Van Staden, Smith, H Jantjies, Willemse.