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"Beasted" Lions may rue missed opportunity

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Bryn Palmer | 19:15 UK time, Saturday, 20 June 2009

Durban, Saturday evening

"You take whatever you can get in this game," said a beaming Springboks coach Peter de Villiers as he contemplated a 26-21 victory over the Lions in Saturday's first Test.

He had the look of a man who knew his side had survived an almighty scare, but was content in the knowledge they were unlikely to be as careless next time.

Make no mistake, this was an opportunity missed by the Lions, and the concern must be that there is no guarantee it will come knocking again next week.

Sure, they played some electrifying rugby at times, won the try count 3-2 and saw another three try-scoring chances go begging.

Ugo Monye, twice, and Mike Phillips came agonisingly close to claiming further scores. If those had materialised, the Lions would be celebrating a famous victory.

Not many teams, especially ones assembled in the space of four weeks, come to South Africa and rattle the Springboks with their attacking verve to this extent.

Some of the match statistics told the story, but not all of it. Five clean line breaks from the Lions, none for the Boks. The tourists enjoyed 56% of the possession, made the hosts make 90 tackles, compared to their 33, and got over the advantage line 32 times compared to nine for South Africa.

Unfortunately for the Lions, other details were not so favourable. They lost three of their own line-outs, two of their own scrums, and the penalty count went against them 13-12, seven of those conceded in the first half.

Five of them were awarded for scrum infringements, most against Lions tight-head prop Phil Vickery.Vickery endured a torrid match against Tendai "The Beast" Mtawarira

The 33-year-old has thrown his battered body into thousands of scrums over a long and successful career, but he clearly couldn't fathom what New Zealand referee Bryce Lawrence believed he was supposed to be doing against the Springboks' "Beast" of a prop Tendai Mtawarira.

"Bryce said that Phil was constantly boring in," explained captain Paul O'Connell. "I didn't think so but it is hard to see. Phil is a very experienced player and how he was seen to be making the same mistake four or five times in a row is beyond me.

"You can understand a guy giving away one or two penalties but every time he just seemed to be reffing us and not them."

Strong words, but whether action will follow is highly unlikely.

Ian McGeechan will take the matter up with International Rugby Board referees chief Paddy O'Brien as part of the official protocol before next week's second Test, in an attempt to seek clarification on the issue.

But even if O'Brien decides Lawrence's interpretation was incorrect, or unfavourable towards one team, the damage has been done.

The pity is that the refereeing issue clouded an otherwise brilliant occasion and spell-binding contest, that while uneven for the first half, burst into glorious life in the second.

"Ladies and gentlemen, this is the moment we've been waiting for since 1997," announced the stadium PA as Boks captain John Smit led his side out to a raucous reception, while O'Connell gathered his players into a huddle on the pitch.

Shamefully for the organisers, there were nearly 4,000 empty seats in the sun-lit amphitheatre, but the red shirts massed at both ends and in the giant East stand should have been a reassuring presence for the Lions.

But they had precious little to shout about for the opening quarter as Jones missed two penalties, Monye's first effort was ruled out by the video referee and the Boks plundered a try and two penalties to take a 13-0 lead.

Tom Croft's try offered encouragement but at 19-7 at half-time, and 26-7 six minutes into the second period, those Lions supporters must have feared the worse.

That the Springboks remained scoreless for the final 34 minutes, and the tourists almost engineered one of the great comebacks with some stirring rugby, means they will travel to Pretoria next Saturday with hope, if not confidence.

The Lions have only once recovered from losing the first Test of a series to win it, in Australia 20 years ago.

That was McGeechan's first tour as head coach, but the odds against him adding a third Lions triumph to his CV, after also guiding the 1997 tourists to victory here, are now a whole lot longer.

He understandably took great encouragement from his side's attacking fluency, praising them for some "outstanding" rugby at times.

Both he and O'Connell maintained belief was still strong, and it will need to be.

For while the Lions can certainly give fewer penalties away next week, it would be a surprise if they can create as many try-scoring opportunities at Loftus Versfeld, the home of Super 14 champions the Bulls.

If you are looking for omens though, the Lions have won three of their four Tests in Pretoria since the Second World War, in 1955, 1974 and 1980, and McGeechan has never lost a second Test as either a Lions player or coach.

"We know the Lions won't lie down, they will come back twice as strong after that," said Springboks captain John Smit, whose return to the field for the final three minutes - to "calm the ship" as he put it - provided timely leadership when his side most needed it.

"As much as the advantage lies with us, both teams are going to be fighting next week - one to finish it, one to survive - so the pressure will probably be twice as big."

That's an awful lot of pressure. Can the Lions handle it, or have they already self-destructed?


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  • Comment number 1.

    Exactly right Bryn - a missed opportunity.
    I've felt all along that a lot of the work the Lions seem to have done in preparing for the tour has involved fitness. I think that was very evident as they dug deep in the last 20 minutes of this match - but it will be a different story at altitude and possibly with our kicking boomerand - Byrne out of that test.

  • Comment number 2.

    Just had a chat with a Bok fan about Pierre Speis, he suggested he is super human. Yes he is big, strong but unfortunately no where to be seen today and I feel he is totally over rated. Anyone agree?

  • Comment number 3.

    John Hayes in, Phil Vickery out.

  • Comment number 4.

    3. VillaFour

    Are you serious. John Hayes

    Have a good mind to complain about this comment. Not from Munster by any chance?

  • Comment number 5.

    Pierre Spies is a great rugby player, im sure we will see a lot more of him at Loftus. Problem seemed more to do with the coach's plans. Boks kicked far too much. Kirchner and Olivier should play in Pretoria, our backs were so disappointing. The Lions never had the power to stop the rolling maul so dont know how they will stop that at loftus with a far better playing surface. Im sure Boks will be kicking themselves with that finish, and will sort it out.

  • Comment number 6.

    You lot keep complaining about the Refereeing over here, even your own English and Welsh refs got flak over here. How do you think out teams are treated over there ? We get nailed every November and dont whinge like you bunch.

  • Comment number 7.

    Am I the only Lions fan who is happier now than prior to kick-off? Before kick-off I was fearful of a heavy whitewash but after today I can see genuine light at the end of the tunnel.
    First the obligatory gripe about the refereeing...
    Like Paul O'Connell I had difficulty understanding some of the refereeing decisions (Phil Vickery being repeatedly penalised for not binding or going in at an angle when the "Beast" seemed at least as guilty or Paul O'Coonnel being penalised for trying to take the ball of a Bok player who had been holding onto it for several seconds after being tackled) but having a Referee and a TMO who were unable to communicate in the same language was almost beyond belief. We ended up with a referee seeming to do the right thing by going to the TMO but either directing the TMOs decision or ignoring it completely. The episode with the Monye "try" (I thought the ball was down but I am biased!) was farcical to say the least. Having gone to the TMO the referee then questioned the TMOs verdict of a 5m scrum to the Lions, and decided that as the Bok player (Jean de Villiers I believe)had taken the ball off Monye over the try line before and then thrown it into touch it was a 22m drop out. Have the rules changed because deliberately throwing the ball away, which is what de Villiers seemed to do, used to be a penalty to the opposing team. The de Villiers arm came up from under the ball so he couldn't have touched it down for a 22m drop out.
    Having said that I believe that the Lions back row are capable of creating several chances in any game and this should give the Boks cause for concern. They had two real chances and came away with two tries whreas the Lions could easily had five or six. While the main scoring by the Lion was done after the Boks made several changes the two crucial "goal line" interventions and the two crucial missed penalties by Stephen Jones came while the Boks were at full strength. Replacing Phil Vickery with John Hayes and AWJ with Simon Shaw should stabilise the scrum and add some much need power. There have been suggestions that the line-out would be weakened with Shaw in the team, but after todays performance the line-out can't get any worse so that argument doesn't hold any more.
    I would also like to see the doctors report on the injury that allowed the Bok captain (John Smith ) to return to the field of play just as the Boks were wobbling!

  • Comment number 8.

    Such a shame Ewan Murray has gone home, he may have been th eman to fix the scrum problems.

  • Comment number 9.

    A hugely disappointing performance against a very limited Springbok side. Too much aimless kicking from Jones, slow service from Phillips and little impact from the Irish lads in the back row. The scrum was a total shambles and probably only recovered in the final quarter due to South African replacements rather than any magic wand wielded by Jones and Rees.

    Out wide this South African side has no answer to BOD and especially Roberts who was absolutely immense. But we've got to get it there more often and faster. We also need a winger who can finish and that certainly ain't Monye.

  • Comment number 10.


    I am a WASPS fan and I also think that John Hayes should replace Phil Vickery next week.

    My previous comment on selecting Simon Shaw is not based on club bias but it seems the only chance the Lions have of stopping the rolling maul. Prior to todays match my prefereed second row was Alun-Wyn Jones and Nathan Hines (note NO Paul O'Connell).

  • Comment number 11.

    Agree with all comments about Bryce Lawrence and his interpretation of scrummaging laws...Heaslip solid in defence but lacked pentration going forward....Sorry Powell in for me...I'd pick ROG at 10 as our tactical kicking was don't just keep giving the ball to an opposition full back who'll return every time with interest. I'm in Cape Town and the Bok support has been surprisingly quiet...they know it was close. By the way anybody fancy a round of Golf at Rondebosch tomorrow tee off about 1pm ??

  • Comment number 12.

    I would not play Hayes in my village 3rd XV, another case of POC getting his average mates in the squad. Wake up and smell the roses. Absolute Joke of a comment.

  • Comment number 13.

    8. tighthead,

    May have scrummaged better than vix, but his work rate around the park is very poor. There is more to a modern day prop than just scrummaging.

    Fortunately Adam Jones has the whole package.

  • Comment number 14.

    What price Mat Stevens not getting suspended (rightly). I'll throw another coin in the fountain Jenkins to play tight head ?? Then Sheriden at loose...

  • Comment number 15.

    South Africa almost lost it when they made all their substitutions. Beast was dominant, took him off; Lions gained parity in the scrum. So many penalties were given away were because Vickery was getting completly dominated, he didnt have an answer to Beast's power. Brussow came off, Lions started to dominate at the break down. If Brussow plays the second test Lions will not have a chance, he is in the same mold as George Smith, nuggety and hard remove from the breakdown. He makes himself an irritation around the pitch and gets under players skins. Brussow slow down 90% of Lions possession in the first half. SA will learn their lesson, and the Lions better be wary because a hammering could be on the cards in the second test.

  • Comment number 16.

    10. harnettski

    I agree with you about shawsy

    He has been there seen it and done it over 12 years and offers far more than Hines or Donkey O'Callaghan

  • Comment number 17.

    It's going to be carnage at Loftus.

    This was the Boks' first hitout and they'll be a stronger proposition next week. Test match rugby is won up front and it was obvious today that the Lions can't live with the Boks' forwards.

    The Boks will throw it around next week and the altitude will take its toll. It's going to be a 20 point margin.

  • Comment number 18.

    Geech won't pick Shaw..I watched his performances against WP and SK from the stands and he was a real donkey round the park. Yes he has great hands and ball skills but fitness wise he won't manage altitude at Loftus.
    What price "Bruiser Powell" to start next week ??

  • Comment number 19.

    There is absolutely NO WAY Hayes should be anywhere near the 22 when Adam Jones is on the bench; he is massively underrated, gets through almost as much work as Jenkins and is key to the powerful Welsh front row who gained parity and drove back the SA and NZ packs in the autumn.

    Jones in for Vickery, Vickery relegated to the bench.
    AWJ did nothing wrong, but since there's no way McGeechan will drop O'Connell (depsite being more deserving of the drop) maybe Hines should come in. Please please not Shaw.

    Croft might be fast, but he offers little in the the way of physicality or on the floor, so Williams in and Wallace to blindside please. I don't believe that Williams couldn't have been on the end of the two tries Croft scored, he does it for Wales so often.

    Jones is on shaky ground, but on balance, he only missed one kick which he SHOULD have got, and generally ran the backline well; if O'Gara had been on the field I doubt we would have been that close since he simply would have kicked away possession instead of giving it to Roberts and O'Driscoll. Jones should retain the shirt I think.

    Byrne hopefully will be back to fitness (if not, I thought Kearney played very well so we're not lacking in that department) and I would be tempted to put Kearney on the wing instead of Monye, since he is generallly assured under the high ball and is good positionally, while offering good running lines.

    If Byrne isn't fit then I think Shane Williams has to come in; Monye's lack of experience showed today and he looked nervous while being a liability on his wing; he proved that while he can finish run-ins, he cant finish anything - both missed opportunities he ran straight for the line, no step, and allowed the defender to get arms around him and the ball. Fitzgerald has played well but Williams has done nothing wrong on this tour; the fact that everyone expects him to score everytime (which is why everyone's on his back) he gets the ball will increase space elsewhere for the rest of the team due to heavvy marking, while his undoubted finishing abilities and experience under pressure should count for more than Fitzgerald and certainly Monye, who has proved he can do what any winger should be able to do, but can't finish anything more complicated.

  • Comment number 20.

    One of the central points of the blog seems to be that we were hard done to by the ref-absolute pants. I'm sorry but the Boks fans who point us at whingers are right on this evidence. Vickery plainly wasn't up to it and should never have started. I'd go with Ackford in the Telegraph who says Vickery's demise today was one of the saddest sights he has seen in rugby.

    It cost us the game

  • Comment number 21.

    Tuesday night could be interesting with places up for grabs next weekend. What price a 20 point win and outstanding performances from S Williams, Hook, O'Gara, Powell, Hayes and Ellis.....I've got a ticket and we go 3 for 3 for my games on tour.

  • Comment number 22.

    There was a noticeable difference in the first scrum after Adam Jones came on, and noticeable the Beast went off after Jones came on.

  • Comment number 23.

    RE: 12. welshtanman

    Your bigotry against John Hayes shows you to know very little about the game of rugby.

    Hayes is one of the best Tightheads in Britain and Ireland, certainly in the top 5. I think Euan Murray has played better this season, and there's not a lot to choose between Hayes and Adam Jones, so I'm not saying he should go straight into the Test team, but he is a top class player, who is certainly capable of playing against the Bokke.

    You are really lowering the tone of this blog with your comments.

  • Comment number 24.

    time to throw my thoughts into the mix...

    firstly what a chance the lions have thrown away, huge missed opportunity and an advantage gone we really could have used over the next 2 tests. we have an uphill mountain to climb, but its not over yet. maybe i'm being a bit naive but we're still in with a chance!

    firstly one thing is clear vickery has to be demoted to the bench. although at times the referee's decisions were questionable, his indiscipline in other areas (going in off his feet etc) could have cost him 10 mins in the bin, then it really would have been game over. i'm irish and can i just sadly agree with welshtanman (and it really pains me to do that) the bull won't get anywhere near the first xv. adam jones looked good when he came on. scrum-wise today i really think we could have used the influence of stephen ferris, how big a loss was he to the lions... we'll find out next week.

    there where plenty of positives to take from todays game though. being 26 - 7 down must have struck a nerve with some of the guys, and i think it was a great testiment to our lions, that instead of crumbling they carried on and really made a match of it. we also know (and i had my doubts about this) that the centre partnership is gooood... i'm fully up for offering roberts irish citizenship cos he and bod were lethal today. i also thought kearney looked good when he came on, and thats a big plus if byrne's injury turns out to be serious. the fly half situation worries me. say what you want about o gara's defense but he would have slotted over those penalties jones missed, i'm sure of it. whilst question marks may have been raised over jones' kicking and o gara's defense, hook imo still isn't ready to have complete control of a game in such an unfamiliar environment.

    we mustn't lose heart guys, there are still 2 matches left in the series and there is nothing stopping us from winning them. monye's disputed try in the 1st half, when the south africans where 7 up, was incredible. it re-inforced to me martin johnson's speach in 1997, and al pacino's speach in the film 'on any given sunday', although admitidly he was talking about american football, rugby really is a game of inches. here's to next week...

  • Comment number 25.

    @15, I doubt Brussouw will play, or at least start, the second test if Schalk Burger is fit again, although I can't say I think that improves the Lions chances any....I agree with you though that Pieter De Villiers seemed to be doing his utmost best to help the Lions; Bakkies Botha, both props and Jean De Villiers off in the space of a couple of minutes, madness!
    PS, great to see the maul make a comeback, and being used so effectively.

  • Comment number 26.

    In response to No 7 (harnettski) - yep, in some ways we should be encouraged by the fact the Lions took the Boks to the cleaners in attack and should have at least doubled their try tally. But this is what Smit had to say afterwards: "I felt we were probably a little rusty, the intensity wasn't there in attack and defence, but this 80 minutes will certainly have helped us for next week". Hmmm

    Several people make good points about the Boks replacements, and De Villiers admitted that he may have made too many changes too soon.

    In relation to Smit coming back on, although it might have looked suspicious, a front-row forward is allowed to come back on if there is an injury, to ensure there are specialists and no uncontested scrums where possible. Smit said afterwards that Deon Carstens hurt his shoulder, but that he was "quite happy to get back on and calm the ship a bit". The value of Smit's leadership is pretty evident. He has not lost a Test match he has both started and finished as a captain since Twickenham in 2006. The one match he did lose that he started last season was in Wellington against the All Blacks, but Smit went off injured after 35 minutes, at which point they were leading. They were still leading 26-7 when he, "The Beast" and Pienaar went off today.

  • Comment number 27.

    The Boks were again what they were in WC 2007 in the big matches. Strong on set piece, limited ambition, excellent long kicking game, pressure game, hard up front.
    The Lions played all the progressive rugby and had the talent to win it, but did not do the basics properly for the 1st 40 mins and were sloppy.
    The Lions did everything they could to let SA in, and SA were clinical, but the Lions wont be as bad again ad SA not as clinical again.
    The Lions should have won this. All the breaks. 3 tries missed.
    Frustrating, but they can take this series.
    The Lions can step up more gears than the Springboks can.

  • Comment number 28.

    While one could argue about the refereeing of the scrum, which at times failed to pick up Beast wasn't driving straight, if Vickery had been equal to the contest, with his experience he should have come up with a solution: he wasn't.

    Before the Lions started scoring I took the view that the Boks hadn't got out of 2nd gear, and they were playing their warm up match. They did little apart from kick for territory well and wait for the Lions' mistakes. They also reminded me of Bayern Munich in the 1999 Champions' League final; self-congratulatory before the job was done. The fear is they will hit full throttle next week and not play about with substitutions.

    For the Lions, Jamie Roberts confirmed his status as world class. To be constantly threatening opposite a centre as classy as Jean de Villiers was fantastic. Which made it all the more frustrating when too many Lions players got inbetween him and the breakdown, meaning he didn't touch the ball nearly enough.

    Sigh. An opportunity lost indeed.

  • Comment number 29.

    I agree with alot of what is being said but lets take a step back and analyse this. Even the most die hard englishman will admit vickery is not england best tighthead both julian white and matt stevens would out scrummage him at ease. Murray and Ferris are huge losses at both scrum time and in open play. John hayes is definitely not the answer he is a bigger man than vickery and indeed both springbok props but he is also only an average scrummager, his best work is done around the fringes of mauls and at the lineout. For me it has to be jones at 3. 2 is also a problem and i feel flannery is a loss. Ford is good but best should have gone, he is a very stronger scrummaging hooker.

    Monye is inexperienced we knew this before the tour so we should not be surprised at his performance. He will improve with time.

    I am both surprised and annoyred that bowe was not used more in midfield as he was excellent in the warm up games coming off his wing looking for gaps. The coaches obviously told him to stay wide and watch habana. The one time he did attack the midfield he made a break in the second half but where was the support. Enter Martin Williams for the second test?? Finally if we are going to play a kicking game then o'gara is your 10. Also the ball needs to be quicker from 9.

  • Comment number 30.

    Vickery definitely to blame along with Rowantree for picking his mate. Adam Jones should have been on from start. I know Murray injured but from memory he gave The Beast a shooing in the pre Xmas game. Forwards allowed South Africans to bully them.
    Why when we have 2 brilliant attacking centres do we go down the blind side with no space. Can someone explain the brilliant tactic.

  • Comment number 31.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 32.

    here welshtanman i agreed with you about hayes. don't put all us irish into the same box mate! hayes shouldn't be on the tour - no debate about that, there's 3 matches left and it should be up to jones and vickery to earn their game time at 3. having said this though no one has yet to suggest an credible alternative to hayes if, god forbid, we have any more injuries...

  • Comment number 33.

    Apologies for lumping you all in together. As for replacement props, I think we would need to look to the English, they have got the strength in depth through their England and Saxons teams. Will do some research and get back to you.

  • Comment number 34.

    Bryn, I think you and many are being far too negative and over the top. You have thrown in the towel after a 5-point defeat against a side that only got worse as the game went on, couldn't handle our backs, couldn't handle our forwards when we got the personnel right (and throwing in for the lineout) and gave up two-thirds of the possession and territory to us. Added to this was the referee who inexplicably ruled a bought dummy run as 'crossing' and made the following errors officiating the ruck:

    - Lions player releases the ball and he is pinged three seconds later for holding on.
    - SA have hands in the ruck illegally, stopping the ball being released (this being another ruck) and he pings us.
    - SA don't release in the ruck and he pings us for nothing.

    I don't need to elaborate on his errors in officiating the SA defence late on, nor do I blame him for Vickery's incredibly sad demise at the scrum - that wasn't poor officiating (admiring POC's defence of his team mate however) but poor Phil taking a beating.

    Anyway, back to my point - you and others are accentuating anything negative and assuming things are bleak for some mystifying reason. We have more reasons to be hopeful and expectant than not, and showed that when our game is organised and the right personnel are on the pitch (remember - the SA bench was being much-vaunted before the game and only Bekker was effective) we can outstrip SA very well. Adam Jones, possibly Matthew Rees and definitely Martyn Williams in and we can win next Saturday. Did you not see how Habana was getting so wound up, being kept in Bowe's pocket all match? How all Steyn could do was kick? How we held our own at the breakdown? Or how every time we got it wide, and I mean every single time, we caused massive problems.

    Yes, SA will learn, but so will we and we are good enough to win the next two tests. Be optimistic everyone.

  • Comment number 35.

    By all accounts Flatman has been the form prop for England Saxons over the last few matches - the first XV is a joke so I wouldn't look there...

  • Comment number 36.

    Can't believe someone was sayong Croft was poor! He was one of our most effective players along with the 2 centres (Roberts was fantastic) & Gethin Jenkins. I felt Jones was poor and one-dimensional and I got fed up with Phillips doing his step and then pass routine. Still, was mightily impressed with the fightback - just a shame we didn't get that 5-metre scrum after Monye's "try". Thanks ref...

  • Comment number 37.

    The result was determined by the Lions inability to deal with the Bok scrum which was primarily Vickery's fault. Ultimately his selection came down to the influence of his old chum Rowntree (and the McGeechan/Gatland/Edwards Wasps connection).It reflects very badly on the coaching set up.

    Disappointed by the performances of O'Connell who slows attacking ball every time he appears at first receiver, Wyn Jones who lacks ballast and was anonymous along with the 7&8, the over-rated Philips who plays with his head down (unlike the excellent du Preez) and Monye who was unable to finish good opportunities in the context of test match rugby.

    At least seven changes need to be made but unfortunately the false dawn of the last 20 mins against the Springbok reserves will offer justification to the coaches to stick with a very similar squad. I would go as far as to wager that Vickery will start next week!

  • Comment number 38.

    Firstly well done to the saffers they deserved their win based on their first half performance.

    Graham Rowantree picking his mate Vickery lost us the test today. Rowantree made some very ill advised comments following the western province game, basically letting us all, and the Boks, know he was picking Vickery - ' I like warriors and Vicks is a warrior'. This was a week ahead of the test. As a result Euan Murray plays on the Tue, gets injured and is unavailable today in any capacity. Murray could have turned that game for us today. He bossed Mtawarira in the Scotland v SA game.

    Graham Rowantree made a very poor call based, I think on friendship. He should have know better. We paid a heavy price.

  • Comment number 39.

    The Lions were superior in the backs. Better ball from the set pieces is the key.
    Felt sorry for Vickery.
    O' Gara must be considered. Also Monye could be replaced.
    brilliant backs tore SA Apart.
    BOD and Roberts were brilliant.
    POC was a great captain. Honest and great leadership.
    Lions will win the second test.

  • Comment number 40.

    Monye- slow
    Vickery - shown to be average (some poor decisions by the ref)
    Heaslip - nearly anonymous throughout

    To me very few players stood up to the plate when needed after a shocking 1st half

    Credit to the the lions for the fact they kept the boks NO8 quiet all game they fought hard at the breakdown and never backed down in this area.

    Vickery was hard done by for "boring in" every time and kearney done well to fill the boots of byrne.

    Alot to work on but there is no reason at allthe lions cant draw the series level next time around.

  • Comment number 41.

    Re: 31. welshtanman:

    I'm glad to read that you are going to do some research and try to find out the names of a few props. Actually being able to name another prop will improve your credibility immensely!

    While you're at it, you should do some research on John Hayes. You could research how many times he was turned over in the Scrum this last Six Nations. That would be the highest level of scrummaging, right?
    Or how many times he was subbed off. Or yellow carded.

    You could check out his tackle count, carries made, and rucks hit, and compare the numbers to his fellow Six Nations props.

    You could do all that, and then tell me how "ineffectual" and "non-existent" he is.

    Because until you can that, your every utterance on this forum will continue to proclaim to the world that you are a loudmouth know-nothing, who likes to prattle on as if he knows the first thing about rugby, when clearly you can only parrot what you have heard from others.

    It is entirely in-character for a narrow-minded bigot like yourself to descend to petty jingoistic nationalism. We may both be living on small islands off of Europe, but it is the sea of willful ignorance which isolates you from proper rugby fans.

    John Hayes has been called up for the Lions, again. This steady pillar of Munster and Ireland, this colossal yet unassuming man, has once again been called on to represent these islands. He goes to South Africa, knowing that in the opinion of the top coaches and the top players in these islands he is among the Elite.

    And he will never know, and never care, that some tiny insignificant blowhard saw fit to question the judgement of those players and coaches.

    But we, here, on these messageboards, will remember, and continue to discount your opinion when we adults discuss rugby.

  • Comment number 42.

    I felt the Captain was weak in his management of the referee. Johnson often dominated refs by his presence and Dallalgo refereed most Wasps games! O'Connell stood 'open mouthed' knowing he should be making a point but couldn't find the words. Clearly Vickery was in trouble but equally Beasty Boy didn't drive straight and the ref should have seen that and if not the Captain should have been in his face telling him.
    Phillips may be a strong No.9 but very ponderous in the pass and our strength is outside and we need a distributor, like Dwayne Peel, to set up the backs. Rees was fine when he came on but his throwing in is dubious for Scarlets let alone The Lions.
    Next week ? A.Jones for Vickery, Shaw for O'Connell, Williams for Wallace, A (Quick)Passer for Phillips, Hook for Jones. Captain-O'Driscoll

  • Comment number 43.

    42. Eastleigh

    Completely agree with regards Phillips service, he is a strong no 9 but time and time again he takes far far too long to get the ball away. Takes too long to get his feet set, allowing opposition backs time to pressure our backs. Our backs, particularly centres, look dangerous every time they got the ball - they would have been even more so with quicker ball.

    Question is do Ellis or Blair provide quicker ball?

  • Comment number 44.

    Blair can provide quick intelligent ball. He had a blinder when Scotland too the Boks close at Murrayfield. I Rate Phillips but i would be tempted to give Blair a go midweek with a view to next Sat. Now if he was playing behind a decent scrum...... see point 38 !! I wont drone on.

  • Comment number 45.

    To be honest I don't think the problem with service from the breakdown was Phillips problem. I also think that he got the ball away OK and when he did the backs were dangerous. The issues for this game were with the forwards and it seems the front row.

    Blair gave SA a torrid time in the autumn but, as we know, his form has dropped off since then and I fear it would be him getting a torrid time from the SA backrow. Ellis doesn't bring very much to the team.

  • Comment number 46.

    I'll offer an unbiased opinion on John Hayes: He is not the best around the pitch but he does make a lot of tackles, he's a solid defender on the pillars around the rucks. He offers nothing of note with ball in hand. He's an adequate scrummager but I've always felt good props can get under him. His biggest strength? Possibly one of the best lineout lifters going and a vastly underestimated part of that Irish lineout over the years.

    Hayes v Adam Jones:
    defensively I give it to Jones. He makes a lot of tackles and works a little harder but that's closer than most people make out. Hayes is an under-rated defender
    scrummaging Adam Jones again gets the nod.
    lineouts, Hayes easily.

    I'd still pick Jones myself but the lineouts are a problem, and I expect them to continue to be. It's hard to get everything co-ordinated right with so little time to practice. Whoever plays hooker is going to struggle. Because of that there is a very good argument for selecting John Hayes. However, with the ball in play more, more quick throws and fewer lineouts over all I think it's a no brainer than you go for the best scrummage you can get. With the 22 kicking rule there appear to be more scrums now and fewer lineouts.

  • Comment number 47.

    Ah scrum half is a problem. Phillips has clearly been the best scrum half on tour but he is not the quickest passer around, never has been. The stutter step is all about looking for the gap for himself. As evidenced by the try he scored and the other one, I for one thought should have been awarded. He'll break that line by delaying the pass a couple of times a game or more but is it worth it for the delay it puts on for the rest of the game. I agree with the previous poster, a fully fit, in form Dwayne Peel would be a godsend for the outside backs but we don't have him and despite some really good patches from Mike Blair in his last game, his form is pretty poor right now sadly. Ellis is a scrapper but I don't think his pass is any better than Phillips and he also takes a couple of steps before passing. I don't think Phillips is really the right type of scrum half for a team with players in such fine form as Roberts, Byrne, O'Driscoll and Bowe but who else can you go for? The Management clearly aren't sold at all on either of the others, Ellis was obviously meant to be an emergency only sub.

  • Comment number 48.

    Firstly i would like to say that Ruck_Maker your Churchillian styled speech and your loyalty to your countrymen is admirable, if not maybe a little over zealous?

    I am afraid that i also must join the ranks of those who have whinged about the officiating of this match, i believe Bryce Lawrence to be a good referee and have never come to blows with his officiating. However today i feel, as i have felt about many referees on the tour, that he has been intimidated by the home crowd and the occasion, i feel that his ruling on the scrum was a tad hypocritical, as was his interpretation of some of the breakdown situations (the penalty awarded against POC when he was clearly on his feet competeing for the ball particularly annoyed me). Call this sour grapes if you will but i still feel that there needs to be more clarity and less pandering to a very partisan crowd.

    As for Phil Vickery, a very sad day for a player who has done so well in his career and has never really had such touble with his scrummaging. As an Englishman it pains me to say that he should not even be on the bench for the next test, a brilliant player in his own right but maybe undone by this brutal SA pack, can we afford to have him come off the bench when we know our scrum will suffer for it? Definitely a call up for A Jones, even with the "Beast" still on the pitch the scrum stabalised imensely and even started to become an attacking weapon.

    I would not change all that much for the next test, i think that S Jones only marginally keeps his place as i think that he, rather than ROG will be able to unleash our devistating centre partnership. I also think that M Williams should come in for Wallace, there needs to be a more clever seven on the park to try and combat the likes of Brousow, Wallace has done little wrong there just maybe needs to be a change in game plan?

    My final little gripe is at those who are still insistent in calling S Williams name to the fore. A great player he is and has been for Wales, this season has been a write off for him, he has not found his feet at all and is nowhere near his shining best, i also think the comparisons made between him finishing those chances with Monye are laughable, Williams wouldnt have finished them because he has done Nothing on this tour to warrant being near the test 22, Monye has scored tries and that is all the coaching staff can go on.

  • Comment number 49.

    As we all debate the next test line up. First I want to say, what a game! I thought we were down and out but we almost pulled it off. Sets it up nicely for the next one. The lions support crowd was immense and surely helped.

    reffing, we were all expecting issues at the break down but we did quite well there and nutralised superman spies. Vics had a tough time even if if the ref was tough.

    So despite the total dominace of the boks in the first half, we did not conceed many tries, despite the scrum and line out problems. Habana hardly touched the ball.

    Rowntree now needs to get his scrum in order. I though the HN sides were best maulers? The rolling maul was the biggest worry as there will surely use that even more in the next one.

  • Comment number 50.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 51.

    Stop being so ridiculously negative!! We were outstanding for a SCRATCH team!

    yes it was a missed chance, but SMALL personnel changes eg. Jones for Vickery, maybe another 2 at second row and wing, but the Lions were immense in attack, a superb display. Don't forget 05 and how hopeless and out of our depth we were, leading to calls that Lions tours are out of place in the modern game.

    This performance has shown that to be utter garbage. Lions can still win this, stop bickering and support a team who represents the best of Britain and Ireland.

    The Boks were impotent in the backs, we can still win this!! Keep the optimism!

    Plenty more hope than before this game.

    Come on Lions!!

    PS. How can you have a Ref and a TMO that cannot communicate?!! And since when has throwing the ball beyond your own dead ball line (as the TMO was just able to articulate) does this result in a 22 drop out????

    PPS. Boks were knackered after 60. How does playing at altitude help them? It's a harder fitness battle higher up and the Lions have shown to be in the better shape. Better fitness = faster recovery time as well.

  • Comment number 52.

    So real good points put forward here, however I fear the usual English trait of blaming everyone else is re-occurring!
    Phil Vickery yes, should feel hard done by, however, people fail to notice that he failed to adapt to the referee something which I feel a test prop should do. Lee Mears was not good enough, ran into contact on his own, and missed too many men on his own throw.
    I think Adam Jones and Matthew Rees played well when called upon. All locks did their job against world class opposition. OConnell carried well and Wyn-Jones made some telling hits and asked questions around the break down.
    The back row Croft apart was very average. Although little was done wrong, there was also little in the way of flair.
    At halfbacks I think Phillips looked sharp (Although he still needs to stay on his feet more as he offers a far greater threat that way. Stephen Jones, although he missed to kicks at goal was still good. He pulled the right strings and got the ball wide when required and also made his tackles when called upon, I think he should still get the nod over OGara, who cannot hide against the Boks, (They will find him!)
    Roberts was world-class, and I look forward to him making such busting runs against opposition in the 6 nations and Celtic League. BOD was also superb!
    In the back three Bowe looked good whenever he got the ball, it was a shame to see the worlds best fullback go off early however Monye needs to take his chances! At test level you cannot miss two golden opportunities to score against the world champions (dare I say it, but Shane Williams would not have missed such an opportunity.)
    I still feel that the Lions can win the series, however they need to give away less penalties at the break down and also adapt to a clueless referee at scrum time.

  • Comment number 53.

    Lets face it the scrum in general is a mess! Refs put their own interpretations on what they see and there just does not seem to be any consistency about what should be done for any particular situation. However lets stop whinging about the ref. I like watching some Premiership soccer on occasions but really get annoyed by the continuous whinging of the pundits/commentators about the 'poor' ref during and after the game, especially when their favoured team are coming off second best. The ref has to make instantaneous decisions in difficult high-pressure circumstances. In fact I think he actually handled the disallowed Moyne try quite well, but was seriously hampered in his decision-making by an incompetent 4th. official. Did anybody understand what he was talking about? His English was not only extremely poor but also heavily accentuated. And on top of it all he didn't get his decision correct! I lost count of how many times the ref asked WHY he was to award a 5 metre scrum because the official failed to give him any clarification. In the end I think he just gave up and awarded a 22 drop out because of the nonsense coming over his headphones. Absolutely farcical!
    So let's not make excuses and lay off the ref. Any complaints in that direction are being dealt through the proper channels at this moment by the Lions management.
    Vickery was simply over-powered yesterday and should have been taken off a lot earlier than he eventually was. No more excuses about poor refereeing please.

  • Comment number 54.


    Glad to hear your opinions on Irish prop forward John Hayes and your experiences of the (small island mentality) people of Irish nation.
    Where else do the options lie? He'll probably make the bench next week for the midweek game if not the test match.

    What we appear to need is a front row that understand the ref's interpretation of the rules come scrum-time. Maybe Bryce wasn't up to the job? Who knows.

    Next week will be very different with altitude coming into play, a kicking game may well ensue.

    R O' G a possible starter.
    Fitzgerald comes in for Moyne
    Lee Byrne will probably have a difficult time to make a start
    Jones in for Vickery
    Williams in for Wallace?
    Maybe Powell brought onto the bench as impact sub.

  • Comment number 55.

    23 - Ruck_Maker

    john hayes could very well be in the top 5 tight heads in the british isles-at no. 5, which probably means he is still the 3rd choice tighthead on the tour, which says a lot about him after vickery's performance yesterday. hayes is a donkey, absolute rubbish!

  • Comment number 56.

    Every tight head prop in the British Isles & Ireland will loose their individual battle with the Beast while Lee Mears is hooker. Its the mechanics, we can't have two 6'2" plus props and a 5'8" hooker. Yes Lee Mears was the most on form hooker going into the test but his line out failed too. Vickery was scrumaging against the beast and the SA hooker.!?. No chance when both packs are the same physically. Start with a welsh front row (and I'm English). Bring Vickery on at 45 mins for a little revenge. Whatever front row is selected it will be second best, however not as bad a Saturday, as long as Mears dosen't start.!!.

  • Comment number 57.

    Scrummaging wise Hayes is in no way the answer. He has definitely improved his technique in the last few seasons and can hold his own but the Beast would do to him what he did to Vickery, win the initial hit and as a result get underneath Hayes, forcing him up/in.

    Hayes is even bigger than Vickery and Vickery's main problem was that he was unable to fully extend his body due to his height. For some reason his body angle before the hit looked poor and seemed to be facing back in towards the hooker as opposed to facing outward towards his opposite man.

    While the refereeing at the scrum was open to interpretation Beast was the more positive scrummager and Vickery made no effort to adjust what he was doing at all.

    Adam Jones should start the next test and to be honest should have started this one. Scrummaging is all about individuals and everybody finds someone else awkward, even Carl Hayman. Both Jones and Euan Murray did the Beast over last autumn and it was a mistake to overlook this and prime Vickery as the test starter. Rowntree's comments on Tuesday were poor and ill advised.

    Also a word to the individuals lauding ball playing props - its all very well being able to do tha fancy stuff but if you can't do the basics at the scrum you will lose the game, look at yesterday. Who needs front rows that can handle when you have a back line that tore the world champions to shreds? The front row for the next game has to be all Welsh, Jenkins, Rees and Jones, and before tha nationality thing comes out, I am Scottish.

  • Comment number 58.

    FIRST HALF - Obviously the scrum was battered, we missed our kicking penalties (SJ 2 out of 2 misses) and did not finish our try opportunities. Whilst the front row was the obvious area it is the 2nd row that has been a constant problem on this tour, POC's lack of form and leadership is baffling but evident. Yesterday again he was often isolated, head-down and a couple of moments when he was brushed away, he almost cartwheeled at one point (never happened to Martin Johnson) and the blaming the ref routine at the end was poor.

    Please please put Hines or Shaw in there, get the other one on the bench. Bakkies Botha is a nasty piece of work which means he is doing the job well and lets Matfield do all the visible stuff, haven't great 2nd row partnership always had a ball player and a bruiser?

    So changes for 2nd test
    Front row that finshed the game
    NH/SS for POC (will never happen though)
    MW for DW
    SW for UM
    RK for LB (injured)
    BOD captain

    Field kicking and penalty count will be vital at altitude, we have a mountain to climb but we can do it.

  • Comment number 59.

    Welshtanman or would you prefer to be called Mr Henson ?

    You are clearly an inarticulate little fellow who lets his fellow countrymen down every time those two brain cells randomly meet at that desolate street corner known as your brain, you are obviously still hurting from that little country across the water winning the six nations. The Welsh people are great, with your comments my friend you simply come across as a sad sad person.

    My first point, Phil Vickery had a bad game, don't blame him for picking the team, he did his best which on the day wasn't good enough.

    The ref in my opinion wasn't as clear and concise about his interpretation of the scrum. He seemed unsure about some serious decisions which ultimately cost us the game. Basic errors were missed, the South Africans were off side on at least 4 occassions and when they realised he hadn't penalised them they continued to do so.

    Re: John Hayes. Hayes is a bully and a tough guy. He is exactly the type of player you need up front against the South African's, whether he can do it for 80 minutes with effect is another question.

    Ronan O'Gara should have started yesterday, he is an exceptional kicker under pressure. Anyone who knows anything about rugby in Ireland and the UK,knows that POC is streets ahead of Shaw, perhaps BOD should be captain, at the end of the day he captained Ireland to the six nations and Leinster to the H Cup.

    Moyne is clearly an athlete but lacks that clinical finish which is vital at this level, Luke Fitzgerald perhaps deserves a chance.

    Harry Ellis also deserves an opportunity and I would certainly give Rob Kearney a start.

    Away from the game yesterday if one thing is evident its that Wales will again be a serious contender for the six nations, its a pity the Scots are going through a barren stage. England have a lot of effective players but need to step up a level and play as a team.

    What will happen next Saturday, who knows I think the important thing is that we collectively support our Lions be they Irish, English, Welsh or Scottish.

  • Comment number 60.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 61.

    dont know how some one has said every prop we could have played would lose a individual battle with the beast when murray destroyed him when scotland played them if vickery hadnt been picked weeks ahead of murray he wouldnt have been playing in the tuesday game he got injured just another selection that was picked out of favoritism on this tour wich could cost us still think boks are there for the taken if we can sort selection out

  • Comment number 62.

    Refereeing yesterday was baffling and took hugely from the enjoyment of the game.The lack of communication between TMO and ref was inbelievable. A 5 metere red ball scum vs a 22 drop out when 7 nil down? A different first half was in prospect. IRFU must address different interprepations of scrum and breakdown before the game internationally degenerates into a lottery.

    Secondly, how do we explain the dominance of the Springbok pack over match hardened Lions, the cream of British and Irish professional rugby? Urine tests anyone?

  • Comment number 63.

    Hi all,

    Next week is going to be harder, SA will be better, but I believe we have what it takes to win the game. Centres were excellent yesterday, and generally we looked far more dangerous with ball in hand.

    As for the vickery saga, yes he was poor, but I dont think even he is stupid enough to give away the same penalty time after time! A lot down to the refs interpretation, dont know if POC and vickery could have asked the ref what he expected at scrum tine?!

    To add to the Hayes comments, he is a solid prop all over the park, not the best, but I dont think as bad as certain people are making out, however one of vickery's problems was his height, and the face the beast was able to get lower than him, A. Jones is shortes, hence the beast was less effective. Hayes is a tall prop, so I think would go the same way as vickery.

    By no was a full gone conclusion next week,
    My test 22;
    15 Byrne (if fit, otherwise Kearney-rate this guy highly!)
    14 Bowe (not enough ball yesterday)
    13 BOD (No brainer)
    12 Roberts (also no brainer)
    11 Kearney (take a risk here provided byrne is fit, good positionally, book, angles, and has played wing)
    10 Jones (was poor yesterday, but dont think he will play that badly again, also see how hook goes on tuesday, he could sneak it if he can control the game)
    9 Phillips (people are questioning his delivery speed, but we need the physical presence he brings, also the other two have been poor!)
    8 Heaslip
    7 Williams
    6 Croft (played well, cant drop him)
    5 POC
    4 Hinds/O'callaghan (more bulk required)
    3 A Jones
    2 ?
    1 Jenkins

    16 ?
    17 Sheridan
    18 AWJ
    19 Powell (lacked impact off the bench yesterday)
    20 Ellis
    21 Hook
    22 Williams (not played well, but can create out of nothing, and hook can cover other positions)

    Any comments?

  • Comment number 64.

    A few thoughts after an infuriating afternoon's viewing yesterday:

    O'Connell - doesn't deserve to be in starting line-up. Physically weak and uninspiring. Goes to ground like a big baby, offers zero threat. Vastly over-rated.
    Phillips - one of the most infuriating displays by a 9 I have ever watched. Just pass the ball please!!!! Stop wasting time posing around and believing your own hype and get the ball out to the backs who are our best chance of winning the game. Had the group of fans I was watching with screaming at TV and tearing their hair out with his antics. If only Blair was in form and confident. Ellis offers nothing better. Please please just get the ball out Phillips!!
    Heaslip - was he actually playing? Totally invisible and inneffective. USeless. An out of form Ryan Jones would definitely have been a better pick than this joker. ONe of the weakest diaplays by a No 8 I have ever witnessed. Unforgivable at this level.
    Vickery - just awful. CAn we play SHeridan on one side and Jenkins on other to improve matters. Bring JOnes on if required. Keep Mears for his throwing and add Rees late on as he did well.

    The good points:
    Bowe, Roberts, BoD, Jenkins, Croft

    What needs to happen:
    Byrne needs to be fit and come back as the match-winning hero we know he can be. A decent 2nd row would be handy. Phillips to learn how to pass the ball. Find a No 8 somewhere. Get a back row who can give their No 10 a tough time - he had so much time on ball it was a joke. Where were the Lions back row? Bowe to get a few breaks.

    We can do it.

  • Comment number 65.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 66.

    The key lessons to be learned for the 2nd test next weekend are coaching ones. The empathetic McGeechan has an outstanding record but on evidence is no longer operating at the top - an indifferent season at Wasps and now with the Lions.

    Yes the referee was poor in demanding that only row pushed straight and if his decisions were in favour of the 'Boks in the first half he may have reversed this in the second? Reviewing decisons the referees after we are 0-1 down in the series and having to play at altitude is academic - why was this cricial area amongst those clearly agreed beforehand?

    The facts are that the performance was not there from the players in the initial 15 mins. They did not play with the intensity but the coaches failed to respond and were impotent in thier response. Fortunatley the Springbok coach made substitution errors of his own allowing us some respite when our forwards gained a foothold and the backs could operate which is a lesson they will learn too.

    1. Why did we continue to kick good ball away to Springbok 15 when we we were dominant ball in hand creating scoring chances?

    2. If we wanted to play a game to minimise contact moving the ball into space at pace, why did we selct a compromise pack offering neither outright pace or physicality?

    3. Why did it take over half the match not to respond to the ref interpretation on pushing straight in the scrum?

    4. Why was Stephen Jones left on the pitch who was not at his best in kicking?

    McGeechan's empathetic style and respect for his previous record has masked the facts. He has chopped and changed players, many of whom playing out of position, failed to do adequate selections at scrum-half and hooker, draw the right conclusions from endless analysis, and worse of all failed to respond boldly during yesterday's match.

    There are positives. We are 0-1 down having lost the sea-level test and changes need not only to come from the players but the coaches too. There is no option not to change.

    1. Draw the right conclusions and adapt. The front-row consolidation came after fatigue had set in, concentration has been lost, and the advantage gained. Can Jones seemingly the escapologist perform at altitude?

    2. Make your mind up. Either play the fastest pack possible behind a solid front row OR go for outright physcial power. The compromise did not work. Which is it?

    3. Play to our strengths. Retain posession, run through the phases as ball in hand being inventive and patient. retain posession.

    Have plan B on the bench not more of the same.

    2. Demand an initial performance from the starting XV that reads 'on my command unleash [disciplined] hell' in the initial 20mins to include pressure and outright physicality on the Springbok half backs who played and kicked very well indeed yesterday gorging themselves on posession and space.

    3. Heaslip and all players turn up this time or is off that field immediatley with any other non-performers sub'd to include the taking of chances which in my selection costs Moyne his starting place.

    4. Get the pressure on the referee right starting with the pre-match meeting with each area confirmed.

    5. Get the selection right. Its about the forwards as the backs with 1 exception remain: Byrne, Bowe, O'Driscoll, Roberts, Kearney, Hook, Phillips.

    Moyne did not seize the finishing opportunities and yields to Kearney.

    Fast pack: Heaslip, Wallace, Worsley, O'Connell, Croft, Hook, Rees, Jenkins.

    Bench: Ford, Sheridan, Shaw, Williams, Ellis, Jones, Moyne.

    Physical pack: Heaslip, Wallace, Croft, O'Connell, Shaw, Jones, Rees, Sheridan.

    Bench: Ford, Jenkins, A-W Jones, Williams, Ellis, Hook, Moyne.

    Training: execution in the red zone. Take a lesson from the 'Boks initial try. Patience and execution versus scamble and video ref.

  • Comment number 67.

    Wow. I have read some amazing views but this is the best.

    Neights writes: FIRST HALF - Obviously the scrum was battered, we missed our kicking penalties (SJ 2 out of 2 misses) and did not finish our try opportunities. Whilst the front row was the obvious area it is the 2nd row that has been a constant problem on this tour, POC's lack of form and leadership is baffling but evident.

    The penalties were against Vickery but POC was really to blame for not changing the Ref's mind ? You probably had to stop yourself asking why don't we pick Martin Johnson?
    Even if POC was playing so badly, which he isn't, who's the alternative and why hasn't McG noticed them?

    The only problem the Lions have is beating 16 men. The one with the whistle ( he wasn't really a ref , was he ? ) is the only defender SA have in midfield who can stop JR/BOD and co. Starting with the Moyne decision (it wasn't an awardable try but he definitely didn't like the idea of a 5 yd scrum, did he ?), continuing with the early whistle to stop SJ making a break with support, when he was already playing advantage to the Lions ,which they had, carrying on with the 'crossing' decision when three SA bought the dummy and finishing with the belated equalising of the penalty count when SA players should have been seeing yellow cards for 'professional' playing the ball on the deck, he was a bit of a homer.

    That said I thought the SA pack and back 3 were very impressive. Their pack's rolling maul and their back 3 kicking was fantastic. However I thought even with the SA subs, the Lions were fitter and quicker.I also thought the Lions gave them too much respect to begin with.

    The only way SA will win the series is with another series of 'baffling' decisions or a big improvement with the SA 3/4's. Ball in hand, they 3/4's didn't show.

    There's reason for hope.

  • Comment number 68.

    England 2003;

    start with jenkins on the tight head and the scrum will go backwards quicker than it did yesterday! he can cover just, but not start there!

    And I dont get the whole sheridan thing, people keep on harping on about what he did to an auzzie scrum a couple of years ago, when from what I recall Australia didnt think the scrum was important. He was completely nullified against Jones and Murray in the 6N this yr! Oh and he does nothing around the park, compare his tackle count or clear out rate with that of Jenkins!

    I bet if the guy sneezes everyone expects there to be an earthquake on the other side of the world!

  • Comment number 69.

    Get Adam Jones in and get Vickery out. He was completely marmalised in the scrums and it stabled once Jones was brought on. Martin Williams should also be starting. Hopefully James Hook will be fit. If he is then he should start cos he is a better alround player than Stephen Jones. Ugo Monye didn't impress me if I am honest. He had two great chances and he couldn't hold onto the ball at the right moment. But Jamie Roberts, Brian O'Driscoll and Tommy Bowe were three of the best players that started yesterdays game and hopefully they won't get injured.

  • Comment number 70.

    The second half was very encouraging. Once Jones and Rees came on the scrum and lineout started going much better. I think these two must start the 2nd test as should Martyn and Shane Williams.

    Martyn had an impact when he came on for Wallace. To win the Lions need to play a fast game, get the ball away from the breakdown to the likes of Roberts and BOD who caused chaos all day. The nugget is clearly the right man for this type of game and simply has to start ahead of Wallace.

    I also go for Shane over Monye as I simply do not rate Monye as world class. He should have finished at least one of his opportunities and yet again he looked disorganised in defence especially when rushing up out of the line of defence and not getting his man. If we don't go for the world class Shane then let's put Kearney in instead (provided Byrne is fit) as he will do a better job than Monye too. In fact I'd have Fitzgerald in over Monye too.

    I'd also bring Sheridan and Powell onto the bench to provide an impact. The Boks were on their knees in the last 20 and these guys could really give the Lions some go forward.

    So... Byrne, Bowe, BOD, Roberts, S Williams, Jones, Phillips, Heaslip, M Williams, Croft, AW Jones, O'Connell, A Jones, Rees, Jenkins

    Subs: Sheridan, Mears, Shaw, Powell, Ellis, Hook, Kearney

  • Comment number 71.

    I don't mean to be offensive but why did McGeechan pick as many English players as he did. Most of the Irish and Welsh players were much better during the Six Nations and England didn't really perform apart from the game against France.

    I would have picked Bryne, Bowe, BOD, Roberts, S WIlliams, Hook, Phillips, Jenkins, Rees, A Jones, O'Connell, AW Jones, Croft, M Williams and Heaslip

    Subs:Vickery, Mears, O'Callaghan, Powell, Blair, O'Gara and Kearney

  • Comment number 72.

    You must have had steam coming out of your ears, did or key board survive? Hilarious

  • Comment number 73.

    @ 48. -Rugby-101- : Thanks, I've been watching the Churchill Cup! ;)

    @ 55. mightymaroon: So you are basicly saying that every tighthead prop in Britain and Ireland is a donkey, and absolute rubbish? With the possible exception of the top 4?

    Who would you say those top 4 are? You don't know? Because you've only ever seem rugby on TV?

    Run along to school you silly little boy, and learn how to use capital letters. If you want your opinion to count for anything, learn to express it like orangedrink.

    @ 46. orangedrink: An excellent summary of the relevant points!
    As I have indicated in my post 156 on Simon Austin's blog, I would start with the all-Welsh front-row that finished the Test. Basically a few tweaks to this weeks team could see us right next week.
    The midweek match could determine the make-up of the bench, essentially whether Sheridan or Hayes sits on it.

  • Comment number 74.

    I didn't want to say 'told you but it was clear the pack picked would not be able to compete physically. No grunt. POC went back the way every time got ball and never led. Drop him ! Even in last phase of match where we could have snatched it he should have just rallied everyone and brought some composure with maybe pick and drives but no. Hines and Powell next week for some ball carriers. If backs get good ball they can rip it up. Maybe drop monye too.

  • Comment number 75.

    OOOHHH Ruck_Maker sharpen your claws girlfriend!! Comedy

  • Comment number 76.

    Changes need to be made, but I dont think they need to panic!

    Heres my two cents-

    Front row- gotta have Jones starting, simple as that. My only concern is can he go for 80 at altitude?
    Second row- AW Jones moves to the bench, Shaw starts, no room for DOC
    Back row- controversial maybe but I wouldnt change it, think M Williams is rightfully on the bench, fantastic impact player for later on

    Fly half- ROG in, Jones to the bench
    Left wing- ...not really sure, Kearney? Williams is off form, Fitz perhaps if he has a strong showing on tues. Maybe even stick with Monye

    I think proper use of the subs is key. Early on we need to play territory rugby, play in the SA half, score our penalties, keep it tight. ROG is just the man for the job. Later, the Boks have shown they wil tire, get M Williams on, S Jones on, play a running game, and get the big points.


  • Comment number 77.

    My earlier post was banned, obviously due to me casting aspersions on the honesty of the ref and please let me apologise for that inference. Obviously such things never happen in world sport and so its important to move on!
    In brief, get a world class finisher like Shane Williams back in the team. Despite not being in top form, he is proven at this level to finish off scoring opportunities which Moyne is not. Adam Jones must come in at tighthead and a change at hooker is also needed.
    The Lions played well but were crucified by the pens and by the inability to take their chances. Sort these areas out and the Boks are there to be taken.

  • Comment number 78.


  • Comment number 79.

    yea eh welshtanman when you resort to pathetic comments like you do at 75 it takes away quite a bit of your credability and makes you look incredibly immature. this blog is designed for adults to have some intelligent conversation and the odd debate. grow up! hayes is on the tour get over it! neither o connell or any other player could have had anything to do with it - that allegation is unfounded and ridiculas! geech and the other coaches know a hell of a lot more about rugby than you do and that goes for everyone else on this blog as well! (including myself i guess...)

  • Comment number 80.

    powerRugbyG, why would you not have Martyn Williams? He is one of the best legal backrow players in the world. When I say legal, I mean he doesn't bend the rules like Jerry Collins and Richie Mccaw. I agree with the bit about Stephen Jones to the bench and O'Gara in. You can't put Kearney on the wing cos he can't play there and you can't write off Shane Willaims. Stehen Jones doesn't have a decent running game, both he and O'Gara are both tactical players. If you want a running fly-half you should use Hook but using Martyn Williams as a late sub for running is a good idea.

  • Comment number 81.

    As rather childish abuse is being thrown around by Ruck_Maker (#73) I will give it the retort it deserves.
    Out of interest,is that the Irish spelling of ridiculous you have used, I have never seen an a used in the word previoiusly?

  • Comment number 82.

    Notice I have used the Welsh spelling of previously!! Only so much banter a man can take!

  • Comment number 83.

    i was taught to spell it how you said it, although i did wonder why a red line popped up underneath it after i typed it in... my point still stands though!

    bryn for dear sake get someone in to police this blog before someone's feelings get hurt!

  • Comment number 84.

    Yeah, I agree that Martyn Wiliams is a great player, and definitely needs to be playing on saturday, I just see him more as an impact player for the Lions. One of the big pluses from saturday for me was that the back row for the boks, and in particular Spies, didnt really get into the game IMO. Think alllot of this was the unseen work of Wallace and Heaslip in containing them. Early on in the match I reckon doing that again is vital, with Croft offering the attacking threat.

    Ideally I would want to see a Williams/Wallace/Heaslip backrow, but cant see Geech playing Wallace or Williams out of position! (Not that Croft didnt have a good game yesterday!)

  • Comment number 85.

    powerRugbyG and Ghosty1812.
    back row is difficult one to pick. is there a possibility of playing wallace at 8. played there quit a bit for munster. would add more of a ball carrying threat than heaslip, but miss out on a lot of unssen work that heaslip does in defence.
    personally i wouldn't drop croft because of the work he does in the line-out and he can potentially be a game-breaker for us.

  • Comment number 86.

    Heres's the gist of my blog comment 2 hrs prior to K.O.

    "All areas are key but the scrum is an area which we could really have expoited, putting pressure on their SH and ensuring they didn't get too much quality ball. A retreating scrum always puts the half backs on the back foot. Unfortunatly we've picked a talented but "lightweight" pack..."

    This followed my mid-week post that we needed to pack the scrum with our heavyweights to ensure at least parity for 60mins then unleash the more mobile Jenkins, AWJ, Croft, Williams from the bench as the Boks flag.

    This statergy would have meant we'd have at least gone into the last 20 mins in touch and having now witnessed how the SA's did indeed run out of puff these guys coming on fresh would have ran their pack ragged.

    It looks like the mid-week pack could be a monster: Sheridan/Ford/Hayes/Shaw/DOC/Hines/Powell/Worsley. I'd like to see this 8 scrum the Boks 8 even if collectively they're as mobile as a 3 wheeled supermarket trolly.

    ps. Questions for our scrum coach.

    1. I can't believe this is the first time the Beast has destroyed a tight head in this manner. Are you sure you did your homework and studied all his previous games or were you just complacent?

    2. They clearly targeted our TH. Why didn't we do the same and target their weakspot and start with Sheridan against their ex-hooker/novice prop?

  • Comment number 87.

    78. mightymaroon:

    Excellent effort! You have managed to use Capitals, now you must learn to use them CORRECTLY. Keep trying though.

    Moving on, you are correct in observing that there are not many tightheads as good as Hayes around. Looking at your choices;

    Euan Murray: Top man. Considered the best this year on his club form.

    Adam Jones: About level with Hayes. Has improved vastly over last few years, can play 80 minutes now, and good hands for a prop.

    Phil Vickery: Versatile, covers loosehead too. On the decline, as known even before this tour, never really came back from some bad injuries. Would rank him below Hayes as a starter, but better option on the bench.

    Julian White: Great technical scrummager. Offers nothing around the park though, inferior lineout lifter, and poor discipline. Even with the scrummaging edge, ranks below Hayes.

    David Flatman: Showed great promise in 2000-2001, but has never really recovered from some bad injuries. (Shades of Vickery.) Would need to play a full season at top-level to be assessed against Hayes.

    Eifion Roberts: The Sale player? He's a tough little fattie, but I think top 20 rather than top 5 contender. Is he on the Wales tour?

    So, you've named the 3 Tightheads on the Lions tour, and 3 others. I don't rate any of the 3 others as highly as Hayes, and I'd quibble whether 2 of the 3 on tour are better. Depends on the kind of game you're playing though.

    You see? Isn't that much more civilised than name-calling?

    Btw, I hope you're going to man up and tell Flatman and Roberts that you rate them lower than a 'donkey' who is 'absolute rubbish'. You can contact them via their club websites. :)

  • Comment number 88.

    eh comment 86 above i think the reason we didn't start sheridan was because of our problems in the previous 6 matches. up to yesterday the most common word mentioned on this blog (aside from bias) was 'breakdown' compared with the other props on offer sheridan doesn't really offer much in that aspect of the game. i, along with a lot of other people, thought our scrum was reasonably good up to the match 27 hours ago. the problem is, whilst sheridan would gain us something in the scrum, problems (big ones) would arise in other areas of the game.

  • Comment number 89.

    That is a good point mightymaroon. But Heaslip is better in the loose from the base of a scrum than wallace. So if they lions were a few yards out you can use the extra 2in and 3lb that Heaslip has over Wallace. I also agree with powerRugbyG. Croft did have a good game. However, I feel that the coaches need to mainly concentrate on the breakdown in between the oppositions 10m line and their own try line cos of the number of penalties they gave away. And with Pienaar and Steyn in the SAF side they could put penalties between the two lines I mentioned with ease

  • Comment number 90.

    yea ruckmacker comment 79 insert your name where welshtanman appears try to grow up yourself! if your points are that decent and correct you shouldn't need to talk down to people to put them across...

  • Comment number 91.

    Completely go with bargebob comment

    14. At 9:15pm on 20 Jun 2009
    'I'll throw another coin in the fountain Jenkins to play tight head ?? Then Sheriden at loose...'

    Just want to add bring Shaw on to start and have AW Jones and A Jones to come on as impact players

    We then have a front 5 who I believe will bully the Boks, give a stable platform for the backs and we have all seen what Roberts and Co can do!!!

  • Comment number 92.

    87 Ruck_Maker Murray had an awesome season for the saints. He was one of the best forwards overall. Adam Jones is way better than Hayes and Vickery is passed it. White is also passed it. They have both had their days but I can't comment on Eifion Roberts cos I have never heard of him. But can I ask one question: did you actually see the game or are you making comments on what you heard on BBC radio and what you have been told be people you know?

  • Comment number 93.

    Re: 92. Ghosty1812:

    "But can I ask one question: did you actually see the game or are you making comments on what you heard on BBC radio and what you have been told be people you know?"

    Haven't heard the BBC commentary I'm afraid, though would like to. Watched the game live on Sky, then re-watched the recording with some pausing and re-winding.

  • Comment number 94.

    So Ruck_Maker, why do you think that Vickery is good? You appear to be the only person that thinks that the selection of Vickery in the squad was a good one. If you have seen the game and then re-watching it then you can surely see that the scrum became much better once Vickery had been replaced. What does this tell you?? Vickery is not as strong as Adam Jones.

  • Comment number 95.

    Really sad watching Vickery's demise but he never should have been out there in the first place. What a shame that Ewan Murray got injured, who is the best tight head in the northern hemisphere. Scotland versus South Africa in the autumn internationals tells you all you need to know about his class.

    in addition, I was dissappointed with Heaslip (decent in defence, no attacking threat whatsoever).

    Furthermore, monye surely cannot play in the second test, Kearney on the left wing for his defence, kicking, composure under the high ball. Moye was picked as a finisher but couldn't get to the line despite good opportunities.

    Lets hope next week we keep the ball in hand and really give it a go.

  • Comment number 96.

    Re: 88

    "i think the reason we didn't start sheridan was because of our problems in the previous 6 matches..."

    Yes I agree. We weakened the collective 'grunt' of the scrum in return for increased mobility/breakdown ability but in doing so ignored a simple R.U principle - you have to first establish a platform and ensure your set pieces are secure. At test level you can't afford to gamble in these key areas as we found to our cost. We started with the more mobile, ball playing forwards (eg. Jenkins/Croft/Jones - all excellent players) but this weakened the overall scrumming unit and we all saw the result.

    The game these days is played by 22 players, not 15 and if you have 4 forwards coming on in the latter third of a game I would prefer to have the mobile guys who can exploit the extra space as the opposition tire coming on. Start with the good set piece merchants and play pick & go/rolling maul stuff to tie in their back row - then unleash our backs at the right time.

  • Comment number 97.

    Re: 94 Ghosty1812:

    Phil Vickery is not in my list of all-time favourite people, but he is a top-class rugby player.
    I might not have included him if I were picking the squad, but I don't think anyone expected him to get cleaned like he did.

    I thought he did poorly in the game, and should have been replaced before half-time, though I don't recall commenting on this before.

  • Comment number 98.

    re 95.
    Thanks eehhee for seeing the sense of the whole thing. Monye had two great chances from a few metres out and didn't take them. I would however play someone like Fitzgerald instead of Kearney on the wing because he is a specialist winger unlike Kearney who is a full-back

  • Comment number 99.

    re 96

    You may notice from comment 68 that I am not sheridans biggest fan, however, from watching the game on sat, it was vickery who was collapsing not jenkins, so sheridan would have made no difference, and infact we would have lost a lot in the lose with not having jenkins.

  • Comment number 100.

    I think that Kearney could definitely be a definite candidate for wing next week, his skill under the high ball will definitely be needed in a test where the Boks will look to kick a lot at altitude. Kearney also offers another massive boot to help to pin back the Boks. As long as there is not an inclusion of S Williams, he has not been proven on this tour, or this season, if he failed to score tries in the test arena of the 6 nations, then how can he be expected to convert these chances in an even more heated arena of a lions test, pick Williams at your peril.


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