The Lions had been widely-tipped to fall flat on their faces in the third match, but played with the passion and energy you expect from the famous red shirt.
But South Africa will not garner any sympathy. They took to the fields with white armbands emblazoned with ‘Justice 4′, a puerile protest at the two-week ban handed out to the Bakkies Botha. It was an absolutely ludicrous idea, which smacked of Peter de Villiers’ nonsensical thinking and deserves full censure from the IRB. It looks like the players are running the Springbok team.
The Lions started the match brightly looking dangerous with early touches for Flutey, Shane Williams and some fine link play from Martyn Williams.
They were dominating the set-pieces too. At the first scrum the Lions pack put constant pressure on the Boks, forcing a penalty. Stephen Jones missed with his first, but succeeded minutes later.
In defence, the tourists tightened up significantly, not so much in technique but with some indomitable spirit. Flutey put in a monstrous hit on Wynand Olivier, while Joe Worsley’s backtrack to grad Odwa Ndungane by the ankles was near-miraculous.
The Powerfull Ireland and Leinster number 8 Heaslip drew Zane Kirchner masterfully before popping inside to Shane Williams (wearing his Puma V1-08 Tricks rugby boots) for the opening score under the posts.
A bizarre missed conversion followed, as the ball fell off the tee during Jones’ run-up and he was unable to pick it up and drop goal it in time.
The Lions then struck again quickly. Flutey’s chip bounced kindly, but his catch and flip over his head to Williams was as instinctive as it was scintillating. Williams again had the simplest of run-ins to the posts and this time Jones slammed over the easy conversion.
The Boks got themselves a toe back in the door at the end of the half, controlling the ball better and tempting Simon Shaw to incur the wrath of the crowd with a knee to the upper back of Fourie du Preez. Shaw got ten minutes, but Du Preez did not re-appear after half-time, allowing Ruan Pienaar who usually a fly half, who ironically was converted from scrum half the chance to come on.
Two more penalties followed the line-out, the second of which Morné Steyn knocked over on half-time to make it 15-6, a deserved lead for the tourists.
Tommy Bowe the Ospreys winger playing in the centre made a terrific cover tackle on Ndungane, knocking the ball out of the winger’s hands as he neared the corner.
The match winning moment came on 55 minutes. As the Boks searched for the try out wide that would get them back into it, Ugo Monye came in off his wing. It’s a defensive move that has cost the Lions four or five tries during this series but this time the Harlequins flyer picked off the floated pass and hared away for an 80m try under the posts.
Steyn kicked another penalty for the boks as Jones (Wearing His Adidas Predator powerswerve rugby boots Firm Ground) kicked two for the British and Irish Lions. Then Stephen Jones fly hacked the ball and finally the Lions had regained there pride of a series that could have been!
For South Africa:
Pens: Steyn 3
For the British & Irish Lions:
Tries: S.Williams 2, Monye
Cons: Jones 2
Pens: Jones 3
Yellow card: Shaw (Lions, 38, knee)
South Africa: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Jongi Nokwe, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Juan Smith, 6 Heinrich Brussow, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Johann Muller, 3 John Smit, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Bismarck du Plessis, 17 Guthro Steenkamp, 18 Dean Carstens, 19 Steven Sykes, 20 Pierre Spies, 21 Ruan Pienaar, 22 Frans Steyn.
British & Irish Lions: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Ugo Monye, 13 Tommy Bowe, 12 Riki Flutey, 11 Shane Williams, 10 Stephen Jones, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Martyn Williams, 6 Joe Worsley, 5 Paul O’Connell, 4 Simon Shaw, 3 Phil Vickery, 2 Matthew Rees, 1 Andrew Sheridan.
Replacements: 16 Ross Ford, 17 John Hayes, 18 Alun-Wyn Jones, 19 David Wallace, 20 Tom Croft, 21 Harry Ellis, 22 James Hook.
Referee: Stuart Dickinson (Australia)
Assistant referee: Christophe Berdos (France), Vinny Munro (New Zealand)
Television match official: Bryce Lawrence (New Zealand)
Assessor: Tappe Henning