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Page last updated at 10:16 GMT, Sunday, 21 June 2009 11:16 UK

Under-fire Vickery wins support

By Simon Austin
BBC Sport in South Africa

Phil Vickery sits dejectedly on the bench after being replaced
Vickery sits dejectedly on the bench after being replaced in the second half

Phil Vickery has received the backing of Lions team-mate Adam Jones after enduring a torrid time in the first Test against South Africa on Saturday.

The prop was replaced by Jones early in the second half after coming off second best to Tendai Mtawarira at the scrum.

"A few of the penalties were harsh. It seemed to be 50/50 but it was Phil who kept getting penalised," said Jones.

"Of course he will bounce back. He has got 80-odd caps for England, is a World Cup winner and a top player."

Mtawarira, nicknamed "the Beast", was given the man-of-the-match award after terrorising Vickery in the scrum as South Africa drew first blood in the three-Test series, winning 26-21.

Wasps forward Vickery, 33, was continually penalised by New Zealand referee Bryce Lawrence for boring inwards on Mtawarira.

But Jones said it would be wrong to single out Vickery for blame.

We failed to keep the lid on the 'Beast' at engagement time

Scrum coach Graham Rowntree

"The individual battle is there, but the scrum is an eight-man thing," the Welshman insisted.

"The referee played a big part. He kept penalising Phil and we weren't sure why. That was definitely the feeling in the dressing room at half-time."

Scrum coach Graham Rowntree admitted the Lions had failed to contain the South African pack in the first half but, like Jones, refused to put the blame solely on Vickery.

"By his own admission, he struggled," said Rowntree. "But it's not just about him but also those guys immediately next to him and behind him.

"We failed to keep the lid on 'the Beast' at engagement time. We didn't dominate the engagement and they were able to get under us.

"It was legitimate and we'll take it on the chin.

Phil is an experienced prop who has played at the highest level and we need to be clear about what is required of our tighthead prop

Lions coach Ian McGeechan

"We're not going to be slaughtering guys this week. We'll have an honesty session to see how it happened and can't happen again."

Rowntree added that the squad would be "going into next week positive and confident".

"We've got plenty to put right but the beauty is that we get another shot next week. We'll take the positives and try and fix the negatives.

"We've got to back ourselves at altitude. There's enough to build on. It's a Lions tour and we've got everything to go for."

Lions head coach Ian McGeechan said he would be seeking clarification over the referee's interpretation of the scrum.

"We need an explanation because it's very important to us going forward to this match," he said. "The penalty count in the first half and early in the second killed us.

"It comes down to interpretation and that's what we need to clarify for next week.

"Phil is an experienced prop who has played at the highest level and we need to be clear about what is required of our tighthead prop."


The Lions' review of the game will be forwarded to referees' chief Paddy O'Brien. There will then be a discussion between all parties on Friday.

Jones, who steadied the scrum when he came on, is now favourite to start the second Test at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

"Obviously I would love to start, but it would be disrespectful for anyone to write off a player like Phil," said the 28-year-old Ospreys player.

And what did he make of "the Beast"?

"He is a big, tough guy and a good scrummager, although I think he was a bit fatigued by the time I got there," he said.

Boks captain John Smit paid tribute to fellow prop Mtawarira for his undoing of Vickery.

"He was outstanding," he said. "He flew his fiancée into town for this game. I think we'll have to keep her around for a bit."

Yet the 31-year-old Smit was scathing about his side's performance in the second half, allowing a 26-7 to lead to slip.

"We let our concentration lapse, we took our foot off the gas, our kicking game went down the toilet," he complained.

The series moves on to Pretoria, with Smit predicting an even fiercer contest.

"Both teams will be really fighting now: one to finish, one to survive," he said. "The pressure up there in Pretoria will be twice as big."

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see also
Lions can square series - Roberts
20 Jun 09 |  Rugby Union
Lions call for Wasps prop Payne
21 Jun 09 |  Rugby Union
South Africa 26-21 Lions
20 Jun 09 |  Rugby Union
SA v Lions 1st Test as it happened
20 Jun 09 |  Rugby Union
South Africa v Lions photos
20 Jun 09 |  Rugby Union
Lions squad selector
07 May 09 |  Rugby Union
2009 Lions: Squad & results
09 Jul 09 |  Rugby Union

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