Golden Lions 10-74 British & Irish Lions, Ellis Park, Johannesburg
Lions rampant at Ellis Park
June 3, 2009
British & Irish Lions flanker Tom Croft races clear to score
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The British & Irish Lions thrashed their South African namesakes the Golden Lions 74-10 in their tour match at Ellis Park, running in ten tries.
The Lions blitzed their hosts with a fluid display, Jamie Roberts, Tommy Bowe and Ugo Monye all scoring braces and further tries going to captain Brian O'Driscoll, flanker Tom Croft and replacements James Hook and Stephen Ferris.
O'Driscoll marked his return to action for the Lions by taking the captain's armband, the Ireland skipper given the chance to expunge some of the memories from 2005 when his tour was ended by a spear tackle in the opening moments of the first Test against the All Blacks.
While the Lions made a stuttering start to their tour with Saturday's victory over the Royal XV their hosts at Ellis Park had also enjoyed a rocky run up to the game with a player strike threatened over coach Loffie Eloff's sacking last week. The home side were present and correct at kickoff however with skipper Cobus Grobbelaar and Emerging Springboks Franco van der Merwe and Louis Ludik looking to take a chunk out of the tourists.
The Lions had three players backing up again after Saturday, with Roberts, Bowe and David Wallace all starting their second match in five days. Ludik's match was ended in a nasty collision with Wallace after only five minutes before the Lions forwards finally bared their teeth.
Croft, Alun-Wyn Jones and Jamie Heaslip were all involved on the gainline before the ball was worked wide to O'Driscoll, whose step and offload found Roberts haring on to the ball to crash through the defence and score. Jones added the extras and the Lions were looking good for the first time on tour.
Jones and his Welsh scrum-half partner Mike Phillips refused to let the home side settle, immediately asking questions of the defence with some quick distribution and two searching chips from Jones. The second drew a lineout from the home defence, which the Lions forwards claimed well and set up position. Alun-Wyn Jones was again conspicuous with his powerful play, before quick ball from Jones found Tommy Bowe in midfield. Bowe stretched the defence before finding O'Driscoll on one of his trademark jags from in-to-out, the skipper continuing his run to score under the posts.
Jones was again on hand to add the extras before adding another penalty to stretch the lead to 17-0. Andre Pretorius gave the home fans something to cheer with a penalty after Phil Vickery had infringed at the breakdown, but they failed to stem the Lions' tide. Roberts had an effort ruled out by the TMO after some powerful play by Monye coming off his wing before Phillips was also held up over the line.
In merciless fashion Jones added another penalty before the Lions rammed home their dominance with a flowing try. Hooker Lee Mears kept the ball alive well before Jones sent a rampant Roberts through into space again. Bowe appeared off his wing to continue the move and his looped pass found Monye in acres of space. The Harlequins wing raced in unopposed.
Fullback Rob Kearney grew in stature as the game drew on, mirroring the excellent performance of Lee Byrne on Saturday, before Croft showed his athleticism in stepping inside and racing clear of wing Michael Killian to score the Lions' fourth. The tourists' defence was brought in to focus by a surge from home side's skipper Grobelaar before half-time, their line looking static and drawn to the ball as Grobbelaar found Jannie Boshoff, whose superb offload found Shandre Frolick to score.
Any enjoyment of the score was brief, as almost immediately Roberts was picking himself up and dusting himself off after scoring the Lions' fifth try. After winning a penalty with seconds remaining they again handed the ball to their forwards, and after they had bulldozed into the home defence the ball was quickly flung to Roberts who made no mistake from close range.
After the half-time whistle both Roberts and Phillips broke a flimsy Golden Lions defence before Jones orchestrated a beautiful score for Bowe. The Welsh fly-half was involved twice, linking with O'Driscoll before providing an excellent pop pass for Bowe to dive over in the corner. Jones added the touchline conversion.
The home fans finally had something to cheer when their side strung together a sequence of shuddering hits on the tourists, with replacement James Hook feeling the force of a particularly fine effort from the impressive American Todd Clever.
Bowe made them take their seats again as he claimed his second of the night and third try on tour with a simple interception, and while a raft of replacements from the tourists slowed the pace of the game Bowe and Monye were soon at it again. New Lions Ross Ford and Andy Powell combined in the lineout before Hook found Bowe, whose soft hands fed Monye on the inside ball. Again Monye was clear and he raced away to score his second and leave Hook to convert to bring up 60 points. The winger didn't return to the field after feeling a twinge, leaving his side to see out the game with 14 men.
Despite this fact, Hook added insult to injury by scoring the Lions' second interception before Irish flanker Stephen Ferris profited from some thunderous tackles from Heaslip and Gethin Jenkins, collecting the ball at the base of a ruck and sprinting the length of the field to put a triumphant seal on an excellent display.
Golden Lions: L Ludik; M Killian, J Boshoff, D la Grange, D Noble; A Pretorius, J Vermaak; L Sephaka, W Wepener, G Muller; B Mockford, W Stoltz; C Grobbelaar, F van der Merwe, W Alberts.
Replacements: E Joubert for Stolz (6-15 mins); S Frolick for Ludik (6 mins); T Clever for Mockford (40+2 mins); J Van Rensburg for Sephaka; W Venter for Boshoff (both 49 mins); E Joubert for Stoltz, E Reynecke for Muller (both 56 mins); C Jonck for Vermaak 68 mins.
British & Irish Lions: R Kearney (Ireland); T Bowe (Ireland), B O'Driscoll (Ireland, capt), J Roberts (Wales), U Monye (England); S Jones (Wales), M Phillips (Wales); G Jenkins (Wales), L Mears (England), P Vickery (England); N Hines (Scotland), A Wyn-Jones (Wales); T Croft (England), D Wallace (Ireland), J Heaslip (Ireland).
Replacements: S Ferris (Ireland) for Wallace (48 mins); J Hook (Wales) for Roberts (53 mins); S Williams (Wales) for O'Driscoll (60 mins); H Ellis (England) for S Jones (63 mins); A Powell (Wales) for Croft; R Ford (Scotland) for Mears; E Murray (Scotland) for Vickery (all 67 mins).
Referee: Craig Joubert
Assistant referees: Wayne Barnes, Marius Jonker
Huw Baines is the Assistant Editor of ESPNscrum.
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