The world champions win second Test 27-9 at Cape Town Stadium
South Africa set up Lions series decider
Tense? Yes. Physical? Certainly. Entertaining? Not so much.
The fact the match lasted more than two hours from first whistle to last didn’t help, with plenty of blows on that whistle in between making it a stop-start affair. Perhaps that was to be expected given the microscope the officiating had been placed under in the lead-up to the match.
Still, the Springboks’ 27-9 victory has set up a series decider at Cape Town Stadium next Saturday; it will all come down to that third and final Test.
The match itself was almost a reversal of the first Test, which the Lions won 22-17, in the way it played out.
The Lions looked like the dominant side in the first half of this match. Their defence was superb – they didn’t miss a tackle – and they led 9-6 at the break.
There were also two yellow cards in that opening period and at certain points it did look like tensions might boil over. Instead, they just continued to bubble away throughout.
In the second half, though, it was the world champions who excelled, winning that 40-minute period 21-0. They started to get on the front foot at the scrum and ruled the air, just as the Lions had done in the second half last weekend.
They also scored two tries, the first coming just minutes after the break – again, like Luke Cowan-Dickie’s had in week one.
The Boks built pressure in the Lions’ 22, Handré Pollard kicked to the wing, Makazole Mapimpi collected and cut between two defenders to score.
The second try, which came around the hour mark, was more debatable. Faf de Klerk put a grubber kick in behind the Lions and Lukhanyo Am was first to get the ball. It was ruled a try, although certain camera angles suggested he was not in control.
From that point the world champions closed out the game with a series of penalties as the Lions simply couldn’t escape from the pressure they were under. Their set-piece, both scrum and lineout, faltered in the second 40 while the number of errors under the high ball would suggest new personnel will be introduced to the back three for the third Test.
Over the course of the game the Lions only had one decent try-scoring opportunity, at the end of the first half. Robbie Henshaw gathered a Conor Murray kick (under penalty advantage) but he was held up over the line by Siya Kolisi and then lost possession.
If the Lions are to have a chance of winning a first series in South Africa since 1997, as well as shoring up their set-piece and aerial game, they will need to show more creativity and play at a higher tempo. They need to test the Boks in defence, challenge them, if they are to be the ones lifting the trophy.
It may not have been the type of match that would attract a new audience to the sport but it has set up the series perfectly. As Robbie Henshaw said afterwards: “It’s all to play for next week.”
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