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Page last updated at 16:54 GMT, Saturday, 4 July 2009 17:54 UK

McGeechan hails outstanding Lions

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McGeechan salutes outstanding Test series

British and Irish Lions coach Ian McGeechan hailed his players as "outstanding" as they hit back to win the final Test against South Africa.

"It was massive. They picked themselves up well," said McGeechan after the Lions 28-9 victory in the dead rubber.

"It's a satisfaction but a secondary satisfaction because we came here to win the series.

"It will be my last Lions involvement. I'd like to thank the players, they've been outstanding to a man."

The Springboks had already clinched the series but the Lions ensured they return home on a winning note after their first Test triumph since Brisbane in 2001.

Lions captain Paul O'Connell
The guys are very conscious of the Lions ethos and wanted to do it proud

Lions captain Paul O'Connell

The Lions raced to a 15-6 lead with two first-half tries from Wales wing Shane Williams, who was making his first Test start on tour.

England wing Ugo Monye added a third after the break when he snatched a stray pass deep in his own half and raced 70 metres to score under the posts.

Springbok fly-half Morne Steyn gave his side hope with a third penalty but Lions stand-off Stephen Jones kept the home side at bay with two kicks of his own, and Odwa Ndungane's late disallowed try for a foot in touch compounded South Africa's misery.

Saturday's win ensured the tourists avoided the ignominy of a first series whitewash by the Boks in 118 year.

"I was worried that we wouldn't play or might go into our shells a bit but we didn't and we scored some very good tries," added the 62-year-old McGeechan, who has been on five Lions tours as a coach and two as a player.

"There is disappointment still in that we could have been coming into this one 1-0 or 2-0 up.

"We tried to play in all three games and had the better of four of the six halves in the series.

Smit defends 'amazing' Lions experience

"To come back and play like that - they are an outstanding set of players.

"Maybe it is something to do with the Lions jersey. You do things sometimes you have never been asked to do in any other context."

Lions captain Paul O'Connell was proud of the way his side responded to the disappointment of losing the second Test with the last kick of the game in Pretoria.

"We wallowed a bit for two or three days," he said. "We started talking a lot about the shirt. We talked about guys getting their first Lions cap and guys possibly getting their last.

"The guys are very conscious of the Lions ethos and wanted to do it proud.

"It was a very tough week mentally for everyone. By the end of the week we rallied. We just really dug deep. Some guys produced some serious form and produced some great scores.

"But I started thinking straight away after the final whistle that after we get over enjoying this we might be filled with regret. Sport can be cruel."

Springboks captain John Smit
We had a wonderful series but would have loved to complete a whitewash so we're disappointed

Springboks captain John Smit

He added: "I hope people don't misconstrue our lap of honour. We're under no illusions we lost the Test series.

"But a lot of people paid a lot of money to come out here, we wanted to thank them. "I must say congratulations to the Springboks. They won the series we both wanted.

"But what these players have achieved in just six weeks should not be underestimated. They have played the world champions in their own back yard and given as good as they have got for three Tests.

"This victory will last for four years."

The Lions outscored South Africa by seven tries to five over the series and notched up 74 points to the Springboks' 63, but O'Connell dismissed suggestions that they were the better side.

"The team that wins is the better team," he said. "You do what you have to do to win.

"The trophy goes to the team that wins. Ian McGeechan said before the game you earn respect by winning.

"Sure, people have been patting us on the backs for our performances but for some guys here it was the first win on the southern hemisphere, and that's important."

SIMON AUSTIN BLOG

Shane Williams, the 2008 world player of the year, was named man-of-the-match after he was handed a start in place of Luke Fitzgerald.

"It's never easy to come over to South Africa and play any sort of rugby," he said. "It was a great performance from the guys. Defence was key and I'm mighty proud to be part if it.

He added: "We certainly didn't deserve to be 2-0 down in the series. The guys have stuck by each other all week. They've been determined and motivated and it showed.

"Before going on the field I knew this would be my last game for the Lions and the speech from "Gats" (assistant coach Warren Gatland) nearly made me cry."

Springbok captain John Smit said: "We had a wonderful series but would have loved to complete a whitewash so we're disappointed.

"We just were not in the right frame of mind. The Lions wanted a victory and they succeeded."



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