/ Rugby

South Africa 9-28 Lions

Updated: Saturday, 04 Jul 2009 22:06

Ugo Monye touches down for the Lions' third try at Ellis Park Tommy Bowe weaves his way around the South African cover
Ugo Monye touches down for the Lions' third try at Ellis Park Tommy Bowe weaves his way around the South African cover

The British and Irish Lions won their first Test match for eight years after a stunning end-of-tour performance left world champions South Africa reeling.

They might have already lost the Test series before another seismic encounter unfolded at Ellis Park, but the Lions delivered a devastating, record-equalling display.

Shane Williams' two tries and a second-half interception score by his fellow wing Ugo Monye, plus 13 points from fly-half Stephen Jones, sent South Africa crashing to a rare defeat on the ground where they won the 1995 World Cup.

The Lions ended a run of seven successive Test losses - they had not triumphed since beating 2001 hosts Australia in Brisbane - and also avoided a first series whitewash at South Africa's hands.

France were the last team to beat South Africa in Johannesburg, toppling them 32-23 eight years ago, but the Lions have now joined that exclusive club.

Despite showing seven changes following the series-losing defeat in Pretoria last weekend - and without injured talismen like Brian O'Driscoll and Jamie Roberts - they responded magnificently.
And the result saw them match the record 28-9 Lions success of Willie John McBride's all-conquering 1974 tourists in Pretoria.

The Lions had heroes everywhere, no-one more so than number eight Jamie Heaslip, who provided a towering presence in all areas, while centre Riki Flutey, flanker Martyn Williams and scrum-half Mike Phillips were not far behind.

It was a dream way to end probably the most satisfying Lions tour since they last visited South Africa in 1997. South Africa's players took to the field in a show of support for banned Springboks lock Bakkies Botha.

The world champions were incensed that Botha received a two-week ban for dangerous charging on Lions prop Adam Jones during the second Test in Pretoria.

Players and management, including head coach Peter de Villiers, wore white arm bands during South Africa's pre-match warm-up, and the players kept them on their shirts as the game kicked off.

Jones missed an early 40-metre penalty chance for the Lions, but the opening exchanges proved every bit as brutal as last Saturday's Loftus Versfeld classic, with both teams tearing into each other.

It took the Lions just nine minutes to strike a clear psychological blow when prop Phil Vickery, dropped after his first Test mauling at the hands of Springboks scrum destroyer Tendai 'The Beast' Mtawarira, responded by spearheading a huge Lions scrum.

Springboks hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle popped out of his binding, and Jones kicked the Lions ahead before Morne Steyn slotted an equalising penalty, his first of three in the game.

The match might have initially lacked pattern and flow as it raced along at a breakneck speed, but the Lions were in no mood to take a backward step.

Phillips made a colossal tackle on Springboks centre Jaque Fourie - it forced him to temporarily make way for substitute Francois Steyn - before flanker Joe Worsley pinned home skipper John Smit with a crunching hit.

As South Africa regrouped, the Lions struck with a smartly-taken try. Heaslip galloped into space, and delivered a neat inside ball to Williams, who claimed his first try of the tour in probably his final Lions appearance.

Jones should have added an easy conversion, but the the ball fell off his kicking tee as he ran up, and his flailing attempt to send a drop kick over failed.

There was no let-up in the ferocity, but the Lions struck another telling blow nine minutes before half-time. It was a try of breathtaking brilliance, all created by Flutey, whose kick over retreating Springboks wing Odwa Ndungane ended with him astonishingly flicking the ball inside one-handed and Williams sprinted over unopposed.

Jones converted for a 15-3 advantage as the interval approached, and no-one could deny the Lions a handsome 12-point cushion, highlighted by some devastating finishing.

The Lions though, had lock Simon Shaw sin-binned two minutes before the break for use of the knee on Springboks scrum-half Fourie du Preez.

And Steyn slotted a second penalty on the stroke of half-time, cutting the deficit to nine points. De Villiers made a double substitution for the second period, sending on Ruan Pienaar and Bismarck du Plessis, yet it made no immediate difference as the Lions powered on in search of that elusive Test triumph.


But centre Tommy Bowe was then forced into frantic defensive mode, preventing a certain try by knocking the ball out of debutant Springboks full-back Zane Kirchner's hands.

South Africa kept pressing, only for centre Wynand Olivier to see a floated pass intercepted by Monye 70 metres out, and the England speedster collected his fifth try on tour.

Jones converted, putting the Lions in dreamland at 22-6 clear and leaving South Africa with a mountain to climb. The Lions lost an injured Flutey - scrum-half Harry Ellis replaced him and Phillips moved into midfield - but they were not to be denied as two more Jones penalties rubbed South Africa noses in the dirt before Ndungane was denied a consolation try by the television match official.