June International Tours

Close shave for British and Irish Lions

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The British and Irish Lions almost suffered their first defeat on their 2009 tour of South Africa but managed to hold off the Cheetahs for a 24-26 victory.

 

The Lions came close to tasting defeat in the last minute when the Cheetahs attempted to snatch a victory with a drop goal but luckily for the touring Lions the kick missed.

 

The Lions started off well and went out to a strong lead which allowed them to go in at half time 14-23 lead.

 

In the second half however the Lions could only add a penalty by James Hook while the Cheetahs scored a converted try and a penalty to bring them to within two points of the Lions.

 

Early tryscorer Stephen Ferris won man of the match. Ferris was also the first Lion to spend time in the sin bin and while he was off the field the Cheetahs scored 14 points.

 

The home side scored three tries to two. A missed drop goal three minutes from time by Cheetahs replacement Louis Strydom saved a Lions side that were cleaned out on the ground by a brilliant Heinrich Brussow, overlooked by Springbok coach Peter de Villiers.

 

Brussow did his best to show de Villiers that he should have at least have been in the Springbok squad.

 

The Free State Cheetahs tackled their hearts out, and pulled off 73 tackles. The irony is that with both the tries scored by the Lions no hand could be laid on the scorer.

 

There was good and bad in the Lions performance. They started off with intent, hit the rucks hard throughout, scrummed well, stole two lineouts and defended well.

 

The Cheetahs barely got into the visitors’ half in the first quarter, and had to rely on sporadic bursts to make any headway at all. What impressed again was the way in which the Lions backs ran their angles and varied their running virtually every time the ball went down the line.

 

Using a big forward in midfield after won ruck ball also proved effective against the shallow-lying backline of the Cheetahs.

 

It was noticeable that, when they had forwards standing off phase ball and driving, that the ball was more often than not passed to a team mate which frequently enabled them to make another meter or two.

 

Kicking, when it was done, was into space or recollected by a team mate – as in the case of the try by Keith Earls, when James Hook chipped perfectly over the Cheetahs backs for his team mate to catch and score under the posts without a hand being laid on him.

 

That try put them 17-0 ahead after only 15 minutes, and six minutes later it was stretched to 20-0 through a second penalty by Hook, who scored 16 points via two conversions and four penalties.

 

The Lions first try was near-surreal, with Cheetahs scrumhalf Tewis de Bruyn waiting for his forwards to clear the ball from a ruck while it had already popped out elsewhere.

 

Lions flanker Stephen Ferris was the lucky man to pick it up for a clear run to the posts. Their inability to finish after those first two tries was perhaps the one aspect that coach Ian McGeechan will pay attention to.

 

And defensive coach Shaun Edwards will be unhappy with the three tries conceded.

 

The Cheetahs showed that the Lions defence can in fact be broken and but for poor finishing and three penalties missed by Jacques-Louis Potgieter (two) and Louis Strydom, they could have been well ahead with six minutes or so to play in stead of trailing 26-24.

 

The Lions were also too often involved in off-the-ball scuffles that a more authoritative referee would have penalised.

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