Maro Itoje tops our player ratings as stunning Lions comeback seals First Test win
SPRINGBOKS 17-22 LIONS
The British & Irish Lions came back from 12-3 down to complete a stunning comeback and win the First Test. Maro Itoje tops our player ratings after a special game.
The Lions would have been hoping to make an early statement but gave up possession with a silly penalty. Ill discipline was the Lions' theme of a patchy first half as Handré Pollard took full advantage from the kicking tee.
The Boks landed all four of their kickable penalties while the Lions only got one from three, leaving it 12-3 to the hosts. Robbie Henshaw was almost the hero, just before half-time, but he was hauled down by Willie Le Roux within sight of the tryline.
South Africa made an early statement of their own by replacing their entire front row at half-time, only to concede multiple penalties. The Lions made them pay when Luke Cowan-Dickie crashed over for a converted try.
We then had T.M.O dramas as South African Marius Jonker ruled out a Willie Le Roux score but went with the Boks for a Faf de Klerk try after a bolting Pieter Steph du Toit break. Dan Biggar got three back, on 54 minutes, and it was 17-13 with 25 minutes to play.
It was getting tense as Biggar popped over another penalty and we headed into the final 20 minutes with the Lions just a point behind. There was a momentum swing, though, and it looked as though the Boks had punched themselves out, especially as Biggar made it 19-17 with another penalty. Even more so when Pollard missed a penalty to re-take the lead.
Another T.M.O call went in the Lions' favour when a Damian De Allende try was chalked off for a Cheslin Kolbe knock-on as he contested a high ball. To sprinkle salt on the wounds, Owen Farrell added to the Lions' lead with a 78th minute penalty.
Here's how we rated Warren Gatland's Lions:
Stuart Hogg - 6
Will be pleased with his first carry, which made metres. Lost his footing when trying to cut out a De Klerk kick in behind.
Anthony Watson - 7
Swept up and made metres after one chase back. Had the Boks worried with his carries, and foot-work. Over-eagerness in a kick-chase saw him over-run Du Toit and put his side in a heap of trouble.
Elliot Daly - 4
Was nearly turned to dust after an early collision with Am. Unlucky to be pinged for not releasing when ref Nic Berry screamed 'tackle' after an up-and-under. Then conceded a penalty right in front of the posts, as the Lions fell 9-3 behind. His poor first half ended with a long, missed penalty attempt. Finished up with 0 metres gained on six carries and missed three tackles.
Robbie Henshaw - 7.5
Stepped by Le Roux to concede yards, but recovered to drag him down. Got himself turned over on a carry after being chopped by Du Toit. Spilled the ball forward on a break that could have led to a try. Harsh knock-on call, as he contested an aerial.
Duhan van der Merwe - 6
Did not cover himself in glory in the first half, on the ground or in the air. Came into the contest more, after the break, and played with more aggression. The smaller Kolbe caused him high-ball issues all game.
Dan Biggar - 7
Average enough first half. Did not leave his stamp on the game and missed a make-able penalty. Found his kicking range in the second half - off the tee and out of hand. Was clocked by a stray shoulder so could not finish the game.
Ali Price - 8
Did a decent job, considering his forwards and centres were getting little change on carries. His box-kicking was excellent, especially as the Lions fought back.
Rory Sutherland - 7
Called in to start, late in the day. Scrummaged well until just before half-time when he pulled one down. Stuck all four of his tackle attempts.
Luke Cowan-Dickie - 6
Threw one lineout a shade too high, and it put the Lions in a hole. Idiotic lineout, on 27 minutes, when he threw short and crooked to Sutherland to concede a scrum. Brave lineout throw on 42nd minute. Rewarded when he crashed over from the resulting rolling maul.
Tadhg Furlong - 7.5
Found himself in a real scrap with Nche but the pair ultimately cancelled each other out. Put in a strong 65-minute shift and made some brutish second half carries.
Alun Wyn Jones - 7
Indecision in the side summed up by a lineout that failed to put up any jumpers and a long debate over a penalty before Daly missed. Showed real steel, playing on for 80+ minutes.
Maro Itoje - 9
Ran into an Etzebeth-sized brick wall on one early carry. Won his side a turnover, on 20 minutes, with a huge tackle and follow-up. Two minutes later, he saved his team's bacon with a turnover near his own tryline. His third turnover of the night sealed victory.
Courtney Lawes - 8
Found himself on a damage control - tackles and slowing down rucks - brief in the first half. Finally broke free of the shackles and made a few forceful second half carries.
Tom Curry - 6
Nice kick-chase to get himself into it after conceding an early penalty. Alas, got himself pinged soon after for not rolling away, and again for a late hit on De Klerk. Got away with some 'dark arts' at one scrum to win the Lions a penalty back. Second half started better as he won his side a penalty with a big hit on Smith. Landed eight tackles.
Jack Conan - 8
The Lions' best ball-carrying forward in the first half, as he got his side some much needed ball on the front foot. The Lions' top carrier in a tireless display.
Mako Vunipola (for Sutherland '56) - 7
Got the back-slaps for a big scrum penalty, on 67 minutes.
Ken Owens (for Cowan-Dickie '56) - 6
Did well. Kept attacks alive with smart handling.
Hamish Watson (for Curry '56) - 5
Fortunate to avoid a yellow for a Le Roux tip-tackle.
Conor Murray (for Price '63) - 6
Kept things ticking over.
Owen Farrell (for Daly '65) - 5
Kyle Sinckler (for Furlong '65) - 6
Liam Williams (for van der Merwe '70) - 5
Tadhg Beirne (for Lawes '72) - 6
Got stuck in.