The British & Irish Lions got off to a winning start in Rustenburg against a scratch outfit the Royal Bafokeng XV. The game certainly gave them a massive wake-up call and they will need to work on defence, getting more men into the breakdown and making less mistakes with the line at their mercy.
The first half was all about the home team, putting the Lions under constant pressure and forcing errors. It was the Lions who got on the score sheet first when having ruin and messed up their first penalty chance they got another go and Ronan O’Gara slotted 0-3 and 7 mins on the clock. The next 30 minutes was all about the Royals as they had a penalty through Naas Olivier on 9 minutes 3-3, then their first try came on 17 minutes from flanker Wilhelm Koch, converted by Olivier. On 23 mins they extended the lead with a penalty by Olivier 13-3. 26 minutes and thanks to weak defence no 2 Ryno Barnes and an easy run to the line and took the score to 18-3. The end of the half and Tommy Bowe cut a sweet line to dot down under the posts, O’Gara slotted the conversion so we had the half time score of 18-10.
The second half and we expected the Lions to kick on and sure enough 0n 42 minutes the lead was cut to 5 points thanks to another O’Gara penalty. just minutes later and the scores should have been tied but Shane Williams having reached the dropped the ball under pressure and the home side broke out of defence. 64th minute and the home no.3 Bees Roux made up for the tough time he had in the tight with a bull run to the line. The video ref took ages to confirm but it was a try and the home side moved to 23-13, Riaan Viljoen who had just come on kicked the conversion taking the score to 25-13. Almost immediately the Lions stand out player Lee Byrne had some luck of the bounce as he gathered his own kick ahead and forced his way over the line, O’Gara converted and we were down to a 5 point game.
The Lions rang the changes and upped the anti. closing the gap with an O’Gara penalty on 73 minutes 25-23. Alun-Wyn Jones then completed a powerful forwards drive on 75 minutes and O’Gara converted for the Lions to take the lead for the first time since the 7th minute, 25-30. We all thought this would be the final score but right on full time O’Gara broke through and then slotted the conversion for his own try giving us the final score of:
Royal XV 25-37 Lions
Match Highlights Video: Royal XV – Lions
Tries: Koch, Barnes, Roux Cons: Olivier, Viljoen Pens: Olivier 2
Tries: Bowe, Byrne, Wyn Jones, O’Gara Cons: O’Gara 4 Pens: O’Gara 3
By James Standley
Royal Highveld XV: Russell Jeacocks (Leopards); Egon Seconds (Griquas), Deon van Rensburg (Leopards), Hanno Coetzee (Griquas), Bjorn Basson (Griquas); Naas Olivier (Griquas), Sarel Pretorius (Griquas); Albertus Buckle (Griquas), Rayno Barnes (Griquas), Bees Roux (Griquas), Rudi Mathee (Leopards), Jacques Lombard (Griquas), Wilhelm Koch (Leopards, capt), Devon Raubenheimer (Griquas), Jonathan Makoena (Griquas).
Replacements: Pellow van der Westhuizen (Leopards), Stef Roberts (Griquas), Rynard Landman (Leopards), RW Kember (Leopards), Jacques Coetzee (Pumas), Riaan Viljoen (Griquas), Jovan Bowles (Bulldogs).
Lions: Lee Byrne (Ospreys/Wales), Tommy Bowe (Ospreys/Ireland), Keith Earls (Munster/Ireland), Jamie Roberts (Cardiff Blues/Wales), Shane Williams (Ospreys/Wales); Ronan O’Gara (Munster/Ireland), Mike Blair (Edinburgh/Scotland); Andrew Sheridan (Sales Sharks/England), Matthew Rees (Scarlets/Wales), Adam Jones (Ospreys/Wales), Simon Shaw (London Wasps/England), Paul O’Connell (Munster/Ireland – captain), Joe Worsley (London Wasps/England), Martyn Williams (Cardiff Blues/Wales), David Wallace (Munster/Ireland).
Replacements: Lee Mears (Bath/England), Phil Vickery (London Wasps/England), Alun-Wyn Jones (Ospreys/Wales), Jamie Heaslip (Leinster/Ireland), Mike Phillips (Ospreys/Wales), Stephen Jones (Scarlets/Wales), Riki Flutey (London Wasps/England).
Referee: Marius Jonker (South Africa), Assistant referees: Craig Joubert and Mark Lawrence (both South Africa).