BBC Sport rugbyunion

IN ASSOCIATION WITH

Related BBC sites

Page last updated at 14:44 GMT, Saturday, 30 May 2009 15:44 UK

Royal XV 25-37 Lions

Royal XV (18) 25
Tries: Koch, Barnes, Roux Cons: Olivier, Viljoen Pens: Olivier 2
Lions (10) 37
Tries: Bowe, Byrne, Wyn Jones, O'Gara Cons: O'Gara 4 Pens: O'Gara 3

Jamie Roberts on the charge for the Lions
Wales centre Jamie Roberts had a big game for the Lions

By James Standley

The Lions launched a late fightback to beat the Royal XV and avoid what would have been their first defeat in the opening tour match since 1971.

Two tries in quick succession, from Wilhelm Koch and Rayno Barnes, helped the hosts take a shock 18-3 lead.

Tommy Bowe's converted try made it 18-10 at the break before a Ronan O'Gara penalty cut the lead to five.

Bees Roux then scored for the hosts but late tries from Lee Byrne, Alun Wyn Jones and O'Gara saw the Lions home.

A sparse crowd at the Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace in Rustenburg - the Super 14 final was taking place in nearby Pretoria - saw the Lions make a raft of mistakes and struggle to gel in the first hour.

An embarrassing defeat was on the cards - for the first time in a Lions tour opener since losing 15-11 to the Queensland Reds in 1971 - to an equally scratch side made up of players from the third tier of South African rugby.

It was not all bad for the Lions and Jamie Roberts and Lee Byrne both turned in fine performances despite the rocky display from the team as a unit, and in the end the Lions' greater fitness saw them run in three late tries to avoid faces as red as their shirts.

O'Gara kicked a seventh-minute penalty to give the Lions the lead but Naas Olivier soon levelled with a penalty of his own.

The Lions' attempts to get their game going were hampered by centre Keith Earls' inability to hang on to the ball.

The 21-year-old was clearly struggling with nerves and when he dropped a high kick in his own 22 it gave the hosts great field position.

RUGBY BLOG
BBC Sport's Simon Austin

They attacked from a ruck, great hands from Hanno Coetzee put Koch through a gap and the Royal XV captain had the pace and power to just make it to the line.

It soon went from bad to worse for the visitors, as Barnes burst through the middle of a maul to add a second try.

The maul, so rare a sight under the experimental laws (ELVs) that had been in effect for the past year, was making a welcome reappearance as Saturday's game was played under the definitive new laws which prohibit players from dragging down the maul, contrary to the system in use under the trial laws.

Royal XV fly-half Olivier converted the first try and slotted a penalty in between the two tries to give the hosts an unexpected 18-3 lead with less than half an hour on the clock.

As the Lions tried to get back on terms they elected not to kick for goal when awarded penalties and after kicking into the corner once more they finally scored their first try of the tour.

They failed to maul their way over from the line-out but fed the ball into midfield and Bowe popped up to take O'Gara's inside pass and motor over under the posts.

Ireland fly-half O'Gara slotted the conversion and despite a difficult opening 40 minutes, the Lions went in only eight points adrift at the break.

O'Gara trimmed the gap with a penalty two minutes after the restart and with Olivier then missing for the hosts, the Lions approached the last 20 minutes trailing by five points.

By now the tourists had taken charge but despite coming close to scoring several times, with Shane Williams even dropping the ball as he tried to spin over the line, they could not quite breach the hosts' defence.

And the Royal XV made them pay when they mounted a rare attack and Roux's converted score gave them what looked like being a decisive 25-13 lead.

With time running out Byrne showed fine footballing skills to score a superb solo try and give the tourists some hope, and O'Gara's conversion and a subsequent penalty cut the gap to two points with seven minutes to play.

By now the momentum had swung firmly in favour of the Lions and first Wyn Jones and then O'Gara went over for converted tries to ensure the Lions got the tour under way with the result, if not the performance, they wanted.


Royal XV: Jeacocks; Seconds, van Rensburg, H Coetzee, Basson; Olivier, Pretorius; Buckle, Barnes, Roux, Mathee, Lombard, Koch, Raubenheimer, Makoena.

Replacements: Viljoen for Olivier (58), J Coetzee for Pretorius (68), Roberts for Buckle (60), Van Der Westhuizen for Barnes (69), Landman for Lombard (56), Kember for Raubenheimer (71).

Not Used: Bowles.

Lions: Byrne; Bowe, Earls, Roberts, S Williams; O'Gara, Blair; Sheridan, Rees, A Jones, Shaw, O'Connell, Worsley, M Williams, Wallace.

Replacements: Flutey for Earls (69), Phillips for Blair (66), Mears for Rees (69), Vickery for A Jones (66), AW Jones for Shaw (66), Heaslip for Wallace (66).

Not Used: S Jones.

Ref: Marius Jonker (South Africa).



Print Sponsor


see also
Jeremy Guscott column
30 May 09 |  English
Bulls maul Chiefs to win Super 14
30 May 09 |  Rugby Union
Lions display worries O'Connell
30 May 09 |  Rugby Union
Royal XV v Lions as it happened
30 May 09 |  Rugby Union
Earls given nod for Lions opener
28 May 09 |  Rugby Union
Earls partnership excites Roberts
28 May 09 |  Welsh
Blair excited to make Lions bow
28 May 09 |  Rugby Union
Lions opponents name starting XV
26 May 09 |  Rugby Union
Springboks fail to impress in win
27 May 09 |  Rugby Union
Lions focus on breakdown battle
26 May 09 |  Rugby Union
Halfpenny joins Lions squad in SA
02 Jun 09 |  Rugby Union
Hook receives surprise Lions call
23 May 09 |  Rugby Union
Lions squad selector
07 May 09 |  Rugby Union
2009 Lions: Squad & results
09 Jul 09 |  Rugby Union
BBC Sport Wales coverage
03 Oct 11 |  Wales
Rugby union positions guide
05 Feb 07 |  Laws & Equipment


related bbc links:

related internet links:
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


BBC navigation

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.