From Paul Morgan, editor of Rugby World Magazine
In one of my favourite episodes of Monty Python they said “nobody expects the Spanish inquisition!” Well, at Ellis Park we were almost back in Monty Python territory as certainly nobody expected the British and Irish Lions to score 74 points, smash the Golden Lions, and score the most points they have recorded in South Africa since the legends of 1974 scored 97! Even one of the coaches admitted they were expecting a 10-15 point win.
But this was a rather special performance, but what is developing into a rather special team.
No one should even go looking for the chickens, let alone start counting them yet as the provincial sides on this tour are definitely poorer than they were in 1997…but as my great old rugby coach used to say; your only beat what is put in front of you.
The 2009 Lions didn’t just beat the Golden Lions they tore them limb from limb, and humiliated a Super 14 side, that was almost at full strength.
So how did it happen? I said before the game I liked the look of the Phillips-Jones-Roberts-O’Driscoll axis and they tore through the Golden Lions with aplomb at every available opportunity, and in the first half they looked like scoring every time they got the ball.
And so comfortable was the victory that they could afford to take off Ugo Monye and Stephen Jones in the second half when all they had was cramp. This meant the Lions played almost 20 minutes with Mike Phillips at inside and then outside centre and the last few minutes with just 14 players. But so comfortable was the scrum, especially when Euan Murray came on, that the Lions could afford to put just seven in the scrum towards the end.
In a huge team effort I was forced to pick out the following great performances, but it could have been all 22!
Phil Vickery: The England tighthead is responding to the challenge of Murray, with an aggressive, impressive tour.
Nathan Hines: Brought some bite to a front five that looked too passive in the first game.
Jamie Heaslip: He had a whale of a game in both defence and attack and his big hit in the second half created a try for Tommy Bowe.
Mike Phillips: The scrum-half offers so much. His physicality will shake the Boks, as someone must keep the world-class Fourie du Preez occupied. What a battle in store!
Jamie Roberts: Can sniff a gap at 40 paces. He ran some great lines and the Golden Lions just couldn’t cope with him.
Brian O’Driscoll: If someone can name a better outside centre in the world I’d like to hear from them.
Tommy Bowe: Off his wing he is devastating and will keep Habana or Pietersen thinking in the Test matches. He may offer a threat they haven’t seen before.