Writing in his latest tour blog entry, Tommy Bowe gave an insight into what it was like in the Lions dressing room after Saturday’s devastating second Test defeat to South Africa in Pretoria.
Tommy Bowe played the full 80 minutes of the absorbing second Test in Pretoria and admittedly found it hard to come to terms with the final scoreline and the fact that the Lions’ series hopes are now over.
“Having been in front the whole game and to lose it in a last minute kick is probably the worst feeling I have ever experienced,” Bowe said, referring to Morne Steyn’s dramatic penalty success at Loftus Versfeld.
“Walking off the pitch and into the changing room was very tough having been so close to winning the Test.
“The changing room after the game was like a morgue, no one spoke for almost half an hour.
“Unfortunately we all really felt there was something special within this team, we have bonded so well, as I have said throughout this tour.
“And to have won every game in the build-up to the Test series, I really thought I was going to be part of something that would go down in history.”
Bowe injured his left elbow in Saturday’s bruising encounter but is expected to be in the running to start next weekend’s third Test in Johannesburg, where the Lions will only have pride to play for.
But, as Wales out-half Stephen Jones has said, the tourists have got to regroup and take this opportunity to ‘restore some pride in the Lions jersey.’
“To be brought back to reality now having lost the series is a very tough pill to swallow,” Bowe added.
“I will always regret that we let something special go and may never get the opportunity again. The two games were both there for the taking and we didn’t take them.
“With sport we cannot lick our wounds for too long and have to pick ourselves back up again as there is another big match this Saturday.
“Training will be very light as everyone is carrying bumps and bruises. But we will be playing for our pride this weekend and I cannot think of anything more embarrassing than losing the three Tests.”
Ian McGeechan’s Lions are hoping to avoid the same fate of the class of 2005 who endured a 3-0 ‘Blackwash’ in New Zealand, although the quality of play and sheer competitiveness of the current Lions has certainly been a vast improvement on the events of four years ago.
Saturday’s second Test in Pretoria has been widely regarded, in both Hemispheres, as one of the best Test matches in recent seasons, packed full of quality rugby, huge collisions and plays and individual moments that left supporters on the edge of their seats.
There has been talk in some quarters of the need to pull the plug on Lions tours, following the seventh straight Test loss for Britain and Ireland’s elite.
Many feel that there is a real likelihood of that losing nature continuing and that the odds in the professional era are stacked heavily against the Lions returning to the glory days of 1974 and that ilk.
Add in that fact that the 2009 tour saw a worrying trend for poorly-attended warm-up matches and opposition sides lacking their big name players, and there are mounting concerns.
But one man heavily involved in the South African odyssey, Lions defence coach Shaun Edwards, has given the tour a ringing endorsement, pointing to just how close the Lions, off limited preparation time, came to beating the Springboks in the first two Tests.
“With everything happening after the match, it wasn’t until Sunday morning that I had time to reflect on what a fantastic game it was and how much it hurt to lose both the Test and with it the series,” Edwards explained.
“No doubt there will be those who will write the Lions off, saying that as a concept they lack credibility in this age.
“I say that’s nonsense. Putting a side together in just a few weeks and then going into battle with the World champions is a pretty stiff ask. But in two Tests we have come close.
“There is something special about the Lions and if I was invited again, I’d say yes without a second thought.”