British & Irish Lions too strong for young Lions at Ellis Park
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JOHANNESBURG – The British and Irish Lions crushed the Sigma Lions in their opening match of the 2021 tour, firing a warning shot across the bow of South African rugby that they are here, they are fit, ready and raring to go.
It was undoubtedly a slick and clinical performance by the B&I Lions at Emirates Airline Park on Saturday night, who ran the Joburg-based team ragged, especially in the second half, with their high-tempo approach.
The B&I Lions started with impressive intent, tying the Joburgers’ defence into knots as they scored the opening try of the tour - a well weighted chip-kick falling into the basket of Louis Rees-James to dot down under the poles within the first three minutes.
Four minutes later, Man of the Match Hamish Watson crashed over the tyline after a simple build-up, and it seemed that the evening, and certainly the first half, would devolve into a one-sided affair. The B&I Lions, after all, had raced to a 14-0 lead within the first 10 minutes by moving the ball at pace and with precision, brushing off first time tackles. Their kicking game was also excellent.
Even so, the Joburgers found a degree of parity with the tourists at the set-pieces and were more than competent in their defending of the mauls in the first 40. They, however, could not translate that measure of control into points, despite camping for a prolonged time in the B&I Lions 22 as the visitor’s defence held them at bay.
The tourists took advantage of that weakness to extend their lead in the 32nd minute as Ali Price crossed the whitewash to score their third try.
80’ | @LionsRugbyCo 14 - 56 Lions FULL-TIME— British & Irish Lions (@lionsofficial) July 3, 2021
Eight tries in total, and a very successful afternoon in Johannesburg on our first run-out in South Africa 👌#LionsRugby #CastleLionsSeries #LionsSA2021 pic.twitter.com/IbtMO8DXLu
The white-and-red hooped outfit, however, kept plugging away and on the first occasion they played the ball wide, Vincent Tshituka - who had a competent game - scored the first try for the hosts. Wyn Jones nearly ended the half with a try, but a neck roll by Courtney Lawes at the breakdown inside the five-meter line denied the B&I Lions another try.
The second half started with two quick-fire tries as the two teams traded blows, first through Ali Price and then Rabz Maxwane, who streaked to the line untouched.
But the B&I Lions speed of play and physicality was taking its toll, Watson especially a terror for the visitors. Their dominance at the breakdown and quick recycle continuously placed the Lions on the backfoot and their defence at sixes and sevens. It ultimately resulted in an easy try for Adams as he collected a cross-kick to extend the tourists lead to 35-14.
The Joburgers made several basic errors in their decision-making and were also guilty of failing off tackles, easing any pressure off the B&I Lions. Adams, meanwhile, completed his hat-trick after an excellent tackle which resulted in an easy turnover at the ruck, which released him down the wing to score. And moments later he scored his fourth as the hosts completely lost their defensive shape.
Within the bigger picture, the Springboks will take note of the fact that the B&I Lions were unable to completely dominate at scrum-time, while their mauls were also less than impressive.
Nevertheless it was a professional outing, and coach Warren Gatland will be more than pleased with an imposing performance to start off their tour.
Sigma Lions (7) 14: Try: Tshituka, Maxwane; Conversion: Hendrikse (2)
British and Irish Lions (21) 56: Try: Reese-Zammit, Watson, Price, Adams (4), Davies; Conversion: Farrell (7)