Roayl XV 25-37 British & Irish Lions
Roberts admits Lions must raise the bar
May 30, 2009
Lions centre Jamie Roberts and fly-half Ronan O'Gara celebrate victory over the Royal XV, Royal XV v British & Irish Lions, Royal Bakofeng Stadium, Phokeng, Rustenburg, South Africa, May 30, 2009
Lions centre Jamie Roberts celebrates his side's narrow victory over the Royal XV with fly-half Ronan O'Gara © Getty Images

British & Irish Lions centre Jamie Roberts insists the tourists have plenty of work to do after they struggled to account for the Royal XV in their opening game.

Head coach Ian McGeechan' s side failed to impress on their way to a flattering 37-25 victory at the Royal Bakofeng Stadium in Phokeng, just outside Rustenburg. The Royal XV, led 25-13 with just 15 minutes left but the Lions finished strongly, as Alun-Wyn Jones and Ronan O'Gara scored late tries to follow earlier touchdowns by Tommy Bowe and Lee Byrne, while O'Gara added 17 points from the boot.

Roberts was one of a handful of Lions to catch the eye with some strong running and line breaks but he believes personal satisfaction comes a distant second to a disappointing team performance in terms of importance as they continue to build towards a three-Test series with the Springboks.

"It doesn't really matter how I did personally, it is how we played as a side that matters," he said following the game. "I think on the whole the guys will be disappointed, it wasn't our best but at the end of the day we won and got the tour off to a winning start."

The Lions' display was littered with errors as nerves and the occasion appeared to hinder their endeavours and an alarming 14 turnovers will be worrying for McGeechan and the coaching team.

"It's more frustrating than anything the turn overs, the knock-ons, losing the ball in contact," said Roberts. "The turnovers killed us at the end of the day. We've got a lot to work on, we'll analyse that, and the turnover count will tell the story. You can't play rugby if you lose the ball and we'll probably do a lot of handling drills this week!"

Roberts also admitted that he had feared the worst with the Lions trailing as the game entered the closing stages. "At 60 or 70 minutes I think the boys may have been worried, but we couldn't get that spark in our game and their wasn't that oomph that we need to find for Wednesday and the other games coming up.

"It's tough getting going but it was the kick up the backside we needed and we've got to be happy with the victory. At the end of the day if you win by 50 points there's something you can work on, we scraped through that one, we were confident we were going to win, but we scraped through and we'll go back to the drawing board and move forward as a squad. I think all the guys will know there is a lot more in us that you saw this afternoon."

The 23-year-old Lions debutant also countered the belief that the Springboks will not be concerned by anything they saw in the clash.

"I think they'll be more worried about what they are going to see in the next two or three weeks," said Roberts. "I don't think you can tell much about us from that game, a lot of turnovers, and nerves, there's always going to be and we may see some more on Wednesday - this is a new team and we are still gelling as a side but there is no doubt there is class in this side to beat the Springboks."


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