June International Tours

Vickery’s Lions future in doubt



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Phil Vickery’s chances of playing in the second and third tests appear slim after the Lions prop was given a powerful mauling by Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira on Saturday and was taken off after conceding expensive penalties in South Africa’s 26-21 victory.

The former England captain, who first toured with the Lions in Australia eight years ago, was repeatedly penalized by New Zealand referee Bryce Lawrence for breaking the rules at scrums and rucks as he came under pressure from the Springboks loosehead prop and Ruan Pienaar’s kicks stretched the home side’s lead to 19-7 by half time.

The home side stretched its lead to 19 points after Vickery was replaced by Adam Jones only two minutes into the second half before the Lions hit back with two converted tries that left them only five points adrift.

“(Referee) Bryce (Lawrence) was saying that Phil was constantly going in,” said Lions captain and lock forward Paul O’Connell.

“I didn’t think so. It’s hard to see how Phil, a very experienced prop who has played rugby a long time at the top of the game, how he could be making the same mistake four or five times is beyond me.”

Lions head coach Ian McGeechan said the team would discuss the penalty count against his team with those in charge of appointing the match referees.

“We have a protocol with the referees where we look at some of those decisions and try and get some explanation from them because obviously it’s important as we go forward next week,” McGeechan said.

Mtawarira paid tribute to Vickery but was not drawn on whether the referee was harsh to punish the Lions player.

“He’s a great scrummager, he’s been around. I just worked hard on certain things and did them right today,” the powerfully built prop said.

“There’s still a lot of work to come. This is a very good platform set but next week is going to be harder.” South Africa captain John Smit saluted Mtawarira for overpowering Vickery in the scrums.

“Tendai played a really big role today,” said the prop who scored his team’s first try.

“He had a good performance. He was up against a hardened tighthead in Phil Vickery who is a seasoned campaigner and he helped us put pressure on to the Lions.”

Saturday’s result makes the Springboks even bigger favorites to win the series with two games at altitude to follow at Pretoria next Saturday (June 27) and at Ellis Park, Johannesburg (July 4).

Although tries by Smit and back row Heinrich Brussow and 13 points from Pienaar helped the Springboks to a big lead, the Lions scored three tries to the South Africans’ two with two from flanker Tom Croft and one from scrumhalf Mike Phillips.

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