The result we predicted last week, for the opening match of the tour, came in Johannesburg on Wednesday as the British and Irish Lions recorded a 74-10 win over the Golden Lions.
Maybe it is just as well the name of the stadium has changed to that of a sponsor, as the once famous Ellis Park witnessed the slaughter of Johannesburg’s pride.
Rugby 365 reports that while the tourists will celebrate a good win, an opportunity to put to test some of their structures and combinations, the performance of the home team can be summed up in one word: ‘disgraceful’.
The 10 tries to one margin is as emphatic as you could have wished for, if you are a tourist.
But just how much value can be derived from this, no more than an opposed training run, remains to be seen.
While the tourists deserve credit for their measured and controlled approach, the real value and quality of the performance has to be measured against opponents that never arrived for the game.
The contrast in the two teams were stark. The one was a settled unit, that was happy with their management structures and playing like a well-drilled unit. The other was clearly a disrupted group that had little or no interest in the game.
The Golden Lions just did not show the spirit and fight that was evident in the Royals team last Saturday. The coaching troubles and administrative back-stabbing that is so rife in the union had clearly filtered through to the team and the players were not able to mentally lift themselves for the occasion.
The British and Irish Lions just looked a lot more eager and showed far more energy than their opponents. Also, the pace at which they played blew the home side away.
And on defence the tourists also had the measure of a scatter-gun approach by the home team.
André Pretorius’ run of poor form and ordinary decision making was symptomatic of what was wrong with this team – as far too many balls ended up on the floor instead of in hands.
New coach Hans Coetzee spoke before the game of playing “winning” rugby. If that is his idea of winning, his team and the union is indeed in deep trouble.
It is sad that the home side provide only token resistance, as the visitors deserved more.
At least the B&I Lions respected the greater cause, the build-up to the Test series against the Springboks, enough to stick to their structures and landing one killer blow after another.
The Golden Lions were dealt an early blow when star fullback Louis Ludik was carried off, following a knee injury sustained while clearing the ball from inside his 22. It looked like a pretty serious ligament injury, as his knee was bent sideways when an opponent ran into him and may well be the end of his season.
And the British and Irish Lions opened the scoring moments later, as captain Brian O’Driscoll showed his exceptional distribution skills to put fellow centre Jamie Roberts over near the right touchline. Stephen Jones added the conversion for a 7-0 lead.
It was O’Driscoll who was on the receiving end of some great running a few minutes later – as Tommy Bowe pulled defenders out of their line and put his captain over for try number two. Jones made it 14-0 with the conversion.
Jones landed a penalty soon afterwards and after 13 minutes it was already 17-0.
André Pretorius eventually got the home team on the board with a penalty on the 16th minute.
Jamie Roberts was over under the uprights soon afterwards, from a strong burst up the midfield by left wing Ugo Monye, but the TMO ruled that the ball was held up.
However, from the resulting scrum the tourists won a penalty and Jones made it 20-3 inside the first quarter.
They soon stretched their lead as a looping overhead pass put Monye into space and over in the corner – 25-3 as the tourists’ scoring kept pace with the clock.
And this routine, scoring at a point-a-minute, continued as late arrival Tom Croft raced over after some fine interplay and off-loading in the tackle. Jones made it 32-3 and it was a true reflection of the first half-an-hour’s play.
The home team had its moments and they eventually got their first try in the 37th minute, with quick hands putting replacement Shandré Frolick over for the try. Pretorius added the conversion and at 10-32 there was just a hint of respectability for the Golden Lions.
But the final word before the break belonged to the tourists, as centre Jamie Roberts went over for his second try – again some ordinary defence allowing the B&I Lions to run free. Jones again added the extras and at the break the touring Lions were one point short of their time on the pitch – 39-10.
While the Golden Lions attempted to play some rugby after the break, there was simply no reward for their endeavour – with the high error rate continuing to cost them.
In fact the tourists scored first in the second half, as Tommy Bowe went over in the right corner after a neat flip from Stephen Jones, with the latter adding the conversion for a 46-10 lead.
Predictably the game became scrappy as the visitors knew the game was long gone as a contest and for the home team it was a simple case of damage control.
Bowe got his second try in the 59th minute, a simple intercept as the locals continued to play at half-pace and without any clear game plan. Jones made it 53-10 as the tourists continued their stroll in the park.
Monye got his second try with just over 1 minutes left on the clock, as a neat inside pass from Bowe put him into space. Jones made it 60-10 as the tourists took their advantage to half-a-century – 60-10.
And James Hook scored try number nine as André Pretorius threw another intercept pass. He also added the conversion to make it 67-10.
Right on full-time replacement flank Stephen Ferris showed the home side a clean pair of heels when he picked up a ball near his own 22 and out-sprinted the lacklustre home side to take his team’s try tally into double figures. Hook’s conversion made it 74-10.
And it has to be said that the not so Golden Lions were flattered by the 10 points they got.
Man of the match: Only one set of players came into contention for this award – the British and Irish Lions. Flank Tom Croft put down an early Test marker, wing
Tommy Bowe and flyhalf Stephen Jones showed their international credentials. Then there was Jamie Roberts, laying strong claims to the inside centre berth in the Test team. But in a game where almost all the visitors looked good, we are going for B&I Lions captain Brian O’Driscoll - who showed his class in marshalling his troops and keeping the defences honest, not to mention keeping his team structured when they could so easily have allowed their standards to drop against such ordinary opposition.
Moment of the match: From early the writing was on the wall and in the sixth minute the British and Irish Lions opened the scoring, as captain Brian O’Driscoll showed his exceptional distribution skills to put fellow centre Jamie Roberts over near the right touchline. The tourists never looked back and the result was never in doubt.
Villain(s) of the match: This award goes to those in the ivory towers and the boardrooms of Johannesburg – Jannie Ferreira, Manie Reyneke and Jake White - for their brain explosions last week, the decision to fire the coach before such an important match. You can’t blame Eugene Eloff for this mess, it was created by self-serving administrators and outsiders. This has all the makings of a ‘bankrupt’ union.
For the Golden Lions:
For the British and Irish Lions:
Tries: Roberts 2, O’Driscoll, Monye 2, Croft, Bowe 2, Hook, Ferris
Cons: S Jones 6, Hook 3
Pens: S Jones 2
Golden Lions: 15 Louis Ludik, 14 Michael Killian, 13 Jannie Boshoff, 12 Doppies la Grange, 11 Dusty Noble, 10 André Pretorius, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Willem Alberts, 7 Franco van der Merwe, 6 Cobus Grobbelaar (captain), 5 Willem Stoltz, 4 Brad Mockford, 3 Gert Muller, 2 Willie Wepener, 1 Lawrence Sephaka.
Replacements: 16 Ethienne Reynecke, 17 JC Janse van Rensburg, 18 Ernst Joubert, 19 Todd Clever, 20 Chris Jonck, 21 Walter Venter, 22 Shandré Frolick.
British and Irish Lions: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Brian O’Driscoll (captain), 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Ugo Monye, 10 Stephen Jones, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 David Wallace, 6 Tom Croft, 5 Alun-Wyn Jones, 4 Nathan Hines, 3 Phil Vickery, 2 Lee Mears, 1 Gethin Jenkins.
Replacements: 16 Ross Ford, 17 Euan Murray, 18 Stephen Ferris, 19 Andy Powell, 20 Harry Ellis, 21 James Hook, 22 Shane Williams.
Referee: Craig Joubert
Assistant referees: Wayne Barnes (England), Marius Jonker
TMO: Johann Meuwesen