It would be very easy for a Leinster blogger to blame Ronan O’Gara for this loss, wouldn’t it?
Well, the facts are there…the score was tied 25-25, and if he had only allowed du Preez to try and catch the ball unimpeded, the chances are the Springboks wouldn’t have been able to get close enough for an easy drop goal in the remaining 90 seconds. But he didn’t.
So we’ve established that ultimately his boo-boo caused the defeat, and as you can see by the pic above, he knows all about it himself.
But let’s look at what else went against us on the day, for we surely can’t point the finger at ROG for the fact that we let a 19-8 advantage slip in the last 20 minutes.
For the entire week between the First and Second Tests, debate was raging about what went wrong and how we should fix it, and the general consensus was simple – fix the front row, and with a tighter more disciplined scrum, we could surely count on our backs to score some points, particularly our powerful centre duo of BOD and Roberts.
So what happens? First, just 5 mins into the second period, we lose BOTH props to injury. And then the killer blow – BOD and Roberts BOTH succumb to injury within a matter of minutes.
And the Lions are left with a completely patchwork formation to try and hold the lead going into the last quarter, as if dealing with the altitude wasn’t going to be enough for them anyway.
O’Gara was actually playing centre. Ronan O’Gara. Centre. Not his fault he was there, but he was there. And what’s more, he had been flat on his back moments Fourie scored his try towards the end so was hardly in a position to make a tackle. So even with a makeshift defence virtually minus a centre, it took an incredible outstretched touchdown right in the corner coupled with an out-of-this world place kick to drag the home side back into this match.
My point is, there’s plenty of reasons for the Lions to feel proud about their display on the day, and I’d better not hear anyone trying to dampen the Irish contribution because despite the slip at the end there was plenty for us to shout about.
Most of all, what about Rob Kearney? Bloody hell, he’d have caught the damn ball if it was on fire and STILL ran for ten/twenty metres afterwards! Not to mention the strength he showed in crossing for our only try! It was a full-back’s performance that had us going “Who was wearing number 15 last week again?” The only reason we didn’t hear so much from him in the second half was that the Boks finally worked out that kicking to him wasn’t such a good idea.
And spare a thought as well for Paul O’Connell. “Was he playing?” you may ask. Well he most certainly was, and Sky’s commentators didn’t give him a single iota of credit for the hard work he was doing. He had clearly made up his mind to forget the ball and police the breakdown himself, making sure South African hands weren’t doing anything they shouldn’t.
Not that he could have stopped Burger’s “cite for sore eyes” on Luke Fitzgerald in the first minute. Should it have been a sending-off? If the ref had the benefit of a replay, absolutely. I’d even consider throwing the book at Pierre Spies because it looks like he’s holding Luke’s hand down while it’s happening. Just what is it about these tours and incidents like this from the home side?
So that’s it, folks. Another defeat for this composite touring side, and I wonder what that means for the future of these occasions.
Just one thing I ask of the press coverage of the Lions between now and next week … PLEASE don’t give in to the temptation to use the worn-out pun “Playing For Pride” (I used it way back before the tour even started!)……