The British & Irish Lions withstood a furious onslaught some legal and some not so from the Southern Kings on Tuesday afternoon in the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth.
Apart from the win for the Lions the outcome is that both Euan Murray and James Hook are out of contention for the first test through injury.
The Southern Kings team showed their intent right from the off and most certainly put paid to any thoughts that they would be disorganised through lack of time together. 10 mins and they had two penalties, both for offside. The first was converted by Jaco van der Westhuyzen on 2 mins 3-0. The big plus for the Lions was their pack and as early as the 26 minutes Ronan O’Gara who had replaced Hook at 10 posted a penalty for hands in the fast retreating Kings scrum, 3-3, and that score remained until half-time although the Lions had the bulk of possession and territory.
The second half and O’Gara put the Lions ahead for the first time in the match with a penalty for offside 3-6 on 44 minutes. The Lions were still finding it hard to create any momentum, mainly because they could not control the phases around the breakdown area and when they moved wide the Kings came up fast and closed down the space, O’Gara picked up on this situation and on the 50th minute put a kick into the Kings in-goal area and Ugo Monye managed to ground the ball, with O’Gara posting the conversion the score moved to 3-13. With the Lions pack causing further problems for the Southern Kings, O’Gara missed a penalty on 63 minutes, and then on 68 minutes a penalty try was awarded as the Southern Kings scrum buckled as the Lions were going for a pushover, O’Gara converted and the Lions were looking like they would start to run away with it 3-20. The Kings had other ideas and forced their way into the Lions 22 and then the dynamo that was their no.7 Mpho Mbiyozo went over out wide on 70 minutes 8-20 and game on. The Kings pressed again but as the Lions line was under seige a turnover saw Blair able to clear to touch and end an epic encounter, final score:
Southern Kings 8-20 Lions
Tries: Mbiyozo Pens: Van der Westhuyzen
Tries: Monye, penalty Cons: O’Gara 2 Pens: O’Gara 2
Southern Kings: Tiger Mangweni, Wylie Human, Frikkie Welsh, De Wet Barry, Matthew Turner, Jaco van der Westhuyzen, Francois Hourgaard; Jaco Engels, Derick Kuun (capt), Ruan Vermeulen, Ross Skeate, Marco Wentzel, Solly Tyibilika, Mpho Mbiyozo, Darron Nell.
Replacements: Delarey du Preez, Dean Greyling, Lungelo Payi, Dries van Schalkwyk, Josh Fowles (for Hougaard, 42), Bevin Fortuin, Mzwandile Stick (on for Human, 55).
Lions: Keith Earls, Ugo Monye, Riki Flutey, Gordon D’Arcy, Luke Fitzgerald, James Hook, Mike Blair, Andrew Sheridan, Ross Ford, Euan Murray, Simon Shaw, Donncha O’Callaghan, Nathan Hines, Joe Worsley, Andy Powell.
Replacements: Matthew Rees (for Ford, 64), Adam Jones (for Murray, 7), Tom Croft, David Wallace, Harry Ellis, Ronan O’Gara (for Hook, 12), Shane Williams (for Monye, 64)
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)