The British & Irish Lions beat South Africa 17-22 in the first Test of the British & Irish Lions 2021 Series at Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town.
Dan Biggar kicked four penalties and converted Luke Cowan-Dickie’s second-half try as the British & Irish Lions took a 1-0 lead in the three-Test series against a Jekyll and Hyde Springboks.
Owen Farrell also kicked a late penalty to seal the deal for the tourists, who were well worth their slender victory.
This was a tale of two halves, a classic sports trope that has never been more apt.
The Lions pulled back a nine-point half-time deficit after a poor first half, but whatever Warren Gatland said to his side, it worked a treat.
The visitors came out firing after the interval, while the Boks looked lethargic in the face of the ferocious intensity brought by the Lions.
Gatland’s men out-scored the Boks 19-5 in the second stanza of a tight contest; the Boks crumbled.
Handre Pollard kicked four penalties for the Boks, but the 27-year-old flyhalf could not convert Faf de Klerk’s score.
Pollard also missed a penalty that would have put the World Champions ahead with a quarter of an hour to play.
This was a missed opportunity for the Springboks to lay down a marker.
Jaques Nienaber and Rassie Erasmus will be concerned at how their team fell away, especially after a commanding first stanza display and a two-score lead.
The Boks conceded 14 penalties, which is not good enough at this level.
The Lions, however, collected themselves after a terrible first 40 minutes to win the opening Test comfortably despite the close scoreline.
The Springboks dominated the first half as Pollard’s steady boot opened up a two-score advantage
A cagey first Test saw the Boks take a 12-3 lead just after the opening half-hour. South Africa capitalised on ill-discipline and mistakes from the British and Irish Lions.
The Boks, more drilled and a nuisance at the breakdowns and set-pieces asserted their superiority. A lot had been made of the physicality of the World Champions, but the British & Irish Lions had no answer.
Pollard kicked all four penalty attempts, while Biggar added the visitor’s only points after 20 minutes.
Biggar and Elliot Daly both missed from the tee as the Lions fell behind to a well-drilled home team.
Daly had a tough time. Lukhanyo Am cut the centre in half with a big hit, and the centre gave away an easy three points to go with his penalty miss.
The Springboks dominated the breakdown, winning several turnovers and penalties, while the home team’s pack won a penalty and free kick in the opening stages.
British & Irish Lions set-piece falls apart as Rory Sutherland and Luke Cowan-Dickie struggle
The Boks also dominated the tight phases and set-pieces. Nienaber’s men forced Gatland’s charges into unforced errors.
Wyn Jones’ late withdrawal saw Sutherland start at loosehead in place of the Welshman. The Boks took advantage, winning three first-half scrum penalties as well as a free-kick.
Twice hooker Cowan-Dickie gave away possession with a poor throw and badly executed short lineout, while Tom Curry conceded two penalties which Pollard converted.
Maro Itoje was a beast, the stand-out player for the tourists, who seemed a one-man machine at times. He was deservedly awarded the Player-of-the-Match
Itoje carried with conviction, winning two crucial turnovers at the breakdown, one of which was on his side’s try-line after a break by Siya Kolisi put the Boks in the red zone for the first time of the match.
Despite the England lock’s heroics, his side went into the shed down by nine points.
Lions hit back as they begin the second half with an early Cowan-Dickie score
The visitors won a penalty from the kick-off, and after the first attempt at a driving maul, the Lions scored at the second go when the hooker crashed over on 45 minutes.
Biggar added the extras to make it 12-10.
The Boks almost hit back immediately when Willie Le Roux dotted down Am’s raking grubber.
The TMO ruled the pass level, but the Le Roux in front of Am before the centre kicked the ball.
It did not matter, however, because the Springboks struck on 50 minutes when De Klerk dotted down.
Pieter-Steph du Toit’s rampaging run set up De Klerk’s score.
Du Toit broke from midfield and raced into the opposition’s half. He played to Makazole Mapimpi, who put in a well-weighted grubber for the flanker to chase.
Du Toit beat the cover defenders but looked to have knocked on Mapimpi’s grubber.
The TMO looked at the replay and decided there was no conclusive evidence that Du Toit lost the ball forward.
Mapimpi had the ball knocked out of his hand and De Klerk pounced to score. Pollard missed the conversion.
Gatland’s side gain momentum as they stay within one point of the Boks going into the last quarter
The Lions started to gain some ascendency, Biggar’s boot made the hosts pay.
Gatland began to ring the changes, and it worked a treat as Biggar kicked two penalties in quick succession to make it 17-16 after 55 minutes.
Duhan van der Merwe went close on the stroke of the hour, but Henshaw knocked on the high ball before the winger collected.
The Lions continued to assert the pressure on the new Bok pack, winning another penalty from a driving maul.
Biggar’s fourth penalty on 63 minutes put the Lions ahead for the first time in the game; the Boks look shocked.
This was not going the home team’s way as the Lions began to take control.
Pollard had lost his radar, missing his second kick in a row after Hamish Watson’s tackle on Le Roux.
Damian de Allende had a try rightly chalked off after Cheslin Kolbe knocked on a contested ball in the lead-up to the try.
Farrell won the game for the Lions with a 79th-minute penalty to shock the Boks, and go one up.
Final Score: South Africa 17 (12) British & Irish Lions 22 (3)
Tries – De Klerk
Pen – Pollard (4)
British & Irish Lions
Tries – Cowan-Dickie
Pen – Biggar (4), Farrell
Con – Biggar
Referee: Nic Berry (RA)
Assistant Referee 1: Ben O’Keeffe (NZR)
Assistant Referee 2: Mathieu Raynal (FFR)
TMO: Marius Jonker (SARU)
15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Francois de Klerk, 8 Albertus Smith, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siyamthanda Kolisi (captain), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Mbongeni Mbonambi, 1 Retshegofaditswe Nche
16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 19 Frans Malherbe, 19 Lodewyk de Jager, 20 Rynhardt Elstadt, 21 Herschel Jantjies, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 Damian Willemse
British & Irish Lions
15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Elliot Daly, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 Duhan van der Merwe, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Ali Price, 8 Jack Conan, 7 Tom Curry, 6 Courtney Lawes, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (captain), 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 1 Rory Sutherland
16 Ken Owens, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 Tadhg Beirne, 20 Hamish Watson, 21 Conor Murray, 22 Owen Farrell, 23 Liam Williams