Scoring the only tries through Makazole Mapimpi and Lukhanyo Am, South Africa were clinical in claiming a 27-9 second Test win over the British & Irish Lions in Cape Town.
CASTLE LAGER LIONS TEST SERIES – SECOND TEST: Saturday, July 31
SOUTH AFRICA 27 BRITISH & IRISH LIONS 9, Cape Town Stadium
Scorers: South Africa: Tries: Makazole Mapimpi, Lukhanyo Am; Con: Handré Pollard; Pens: Handré Pollard 5
British & Irish Lions: Pens: Dan Biggar 3
HT: South Africa 6 British & Irish Lions 9
22-17 winners of the opening Test, the Lions were held scoreless in the second half as the Springboks became increasingly dominant on the back of cleverly-worked scores from Mapimpi (44 minutes) and Am (60).
Out-half Handré Pollard supplied a try assist and finished with a handsome 17-point haul, while South Africa’s inspirational captain Siya Kolisi was in terrific form up front.
Disappointingly, Warren Gatland’s men had no answer to a ruthlessly efficient closing 40 minutes from South Africa, who take the series to a deciding third Test in Cape Town next Saturday.
It was a hard slog of a first half, marred by long stoppages and some ill-tempered exchanges. Dan Biggar landed all three of his penalties for a 9-6 lead, his opposite number Pollard nailing two-out-of-three.
Robbie Henshaw went closest to scoring a try from a deft Conor Murray kick, while busy referee Ben O’Keeffe sin-binned wingers Duhan van der Merwe (22 minutes) and Cheslin Kolbe (24) for separate offences.
Notably, the Lions’ back-three struggled under the high ball as the game wore on, the ‘Boks used that hard-earned platform and the physicality of their forwards to hammer home their advantage.
The ‘Boks quickly set about their task, testing the Lions maul defence before getting the ball wide to Kolbe. He was chopped down, but an offside penalty allowed Pollard to open the scoring in the third minute.
A promising scrum position led to the Lions’ response, with the newly-included Jasper Wiese guilty of a no-arms tackle on Luke Cowan-Dickie. Biggar levelled with the close range kick.
With the likes of Henshaw and Jack Conan getting more ball in hand, the Lions made further ground and a fifth successive penalty against the ‘Boks allowed Biggar to make it 6-3 on the quarter hour mark.
Some strong counter-rucking from Munster’s Damian de Allende gave the hosts the opportunity to swiftly reply, but Pollard dragged his effort wide from the left wing.
Despite losing the prominent Pieter-Steph du Toit to a shoulder injury, Jacques Nienaber’s side launched forward from a scrum penalty and played with increasing width, looking for the lightning-quick Kolbe.
Indeed, the diminutive winger was caught on halfway by a foot trip from van der Merwe, who was binned following the TMO review.
Crucially, good pressure at the lineout – Courtney Lawes got up to challenge – forced a turnover for the Lions, and there was some more pushing and shoving after Murray was taken out in the air by Kolbe.
Lions skipper Alun Wyn Jones and Eden Etzebeth had squared up inside the opening minutes, and this latest melee saw players from both sides getting involved. Kolbe’s eventual yellow made it 14 against 14.
The scrappiness was blighting play, although the Lions attack was beginning to make inroads. A Maro Itoje lineout steal led to some lovely hands across midfield – Conan and Henshaw were both involved – before a knock-on at a ruck handed possession back.
Pollard was back on target with a fine long range strike from the right, bringing his side level at six points apiece.
Henshaw then took centre stage, gobbling up a long lineout throw and then Tadhg Furlong carried hard, drawing in Mapimpi for the concession of a penalty.
The ‘Boks pinched the resulting lineout, but Itoje drove Etzebeth over the line to earn a five-metre scrum. The Lions kept pressing, Murray’s clever kick over the top putting Henshaw a whisker away from scoring that elusive first try.
Three South African defenders swarmed in as the Athlone man collected the kick, the excellent Kolisi doing just enough to prevent a clear grounding. There was a prior penalty, though, and Biggar tapped over for a 9-6 lead.
The ‘Boks were the better side when play resumed in the second half, forcing a scrum penalty and pinning the Lions back.
Pollard’s pinpoint kick out to the left found Mapimpi, tonight’s player-of-the-match, who brilliantly evaded both Anthony Watson and Stuart Hogg to score. Pollard was unable to convert.
Biggar also misfired from the tee in the 51st minute, hitting the left hand post after South African replacement Kwagga Smith was guilty of not releasing after the tackle.
The third quarter looked to be petering out with neither team able to profit from aerial bombs, although Scotland’s van der Merwe was coming under increasing pressure.
The Lions changed their entire front row and also brought on Owen Farrell and Ali Price at half-back, with the outcome of the Test still delicately poised.
Right on cue, the ‘Boks produced a monster maul to get into scoring range. Faf de Klerk took over by threading a lovely grubber kick in behind the posts for Am to dot down before the end-line.
After TMO Marius Jonker confirmed the grounding, Pollard added the extras to suddenly open up an 18-9 advantage.
Key too to South Africa’s surge was their impactful bench, most notably lock Lood de Jager. Adding to their frustration, the Lions were now giving away more penalties and their handling errors increased to ten.
The ‘Boks’ impressive work on contestable kicks, combined with the pack’s undeniable grunt, earned another penalty chance on the 70-minute mark. Pollard secured the three points with a well-struck shot from the left flank.
Ireland’s Tadhg Beirne got on for his second Lions Test appearance, but South Africa made it 21 unanswered points with two closing penalties from their influential number 10.
TIME LINE: 3 minutes – South Africa penalty: Handré Pollard – 3-0; 9 mins – British & Irish Lions penalty: Dan Biggar – 3-3; 16 mins – British & Irish Lions penalty: Dan Biggar – 3-6; 18 mins – South Africa penalty: missed by Handré Pollard – 3-6; 22 mins – British & Irish Lions yellow card: Duhan van der Merwe; 24 mins – South Africa yellow card: Cheslin Kolbe; 31 mins – South Africa penalty: Handré Pollard – 6-6; 36 mins – British & Irish Lions penalty: Dan Biggar – 5-9; Half-time: South Africa 6 British & Irish Lions 9; 44 mins – South Africa try: Makazole Mapimpi – 11-9; conversion: missed by Handré Pollard – 11-9; 60 mins – South Africa try: Lukhanyo Am – 16-9; conversion: Handré Pollard – 18-9; 70 mins – South Africa penalty: Handré Pollard – 21-9; 75 mins – South Africa penalty: Handré Pollard – 24-9; 80 mins – South Africa penalty: Handré Pollard – 27-9; Full-time – South Africa 27 British & Irish Lions 9
SOUTH AFRICA: Willie le Roux (Toyota Verblitz); Cheslin Kolbe (Toulouse), Lukhanyo Am (Cell C Sharks), Damian de Allende (Munster), Makazole Mapimpi (Cell C Sharks); Handré Pollard (Montpellier), Faf de Klerk (Sale Sharks); Steven Kitshoff (DHL Stormers), Bongi Mbonambi (DHL Stormers), Frans Malherbe (DHL Stormers), Eben Etzebeth (Toulon), Franco Mostert (Honda Heat), Siya Kolisi (Cell C Sharks) (capt), Pieter-Steph du Toit (DHL Stormers), Jasper Wiese (Leicester Tigers).
Replacements used: Kwagga Smith (Yamaha Júbilo) for du Toit (21 mins), Lood de Jager (Sale Sharks) for Wiese, Malcolm Marx (Kubota Spears) for Mbonambi, Vincent Koch (Saracens) for Malherbe (all 55), Trevor Nyakane (Vodacom Bulls) for Kitshoff (59), Herschel Jantjies (DHL Stormers) for de Klerk (63), Damian Willemse (DHL Stormers) for Mapimpi (67), Marco van Staden (Vodacom Bulls) for Kolisi (72).
BRITISH & IRISH LIONS: Stuart Hogg (Exeter Chiefs/Scotland); Anthony Watson (Bath/England), Chris Harris (Gloucester/Scotland), Robbie Henshaw (Leinster/Ireland), Duhan van der Merwe (Worcester Warriors/Scotland); Dan Biggar (Northampton Saints/Wales), Conor Murray (Munster/Ireland); Mako Vunipola (Saracens/England), Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs/England), Tadhg Furlong (Leinster/Ireland), Maro Itoje (Saracens/England), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys/Wales) (capt), Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints/England), Tom Curry (Sale Sharks/England), Jack Conan (Leinster/Ireland).
Replacements used: Ken Owens (Scarlets/Wales) for Cowan-Dickie, Rory Sutherland (Worcester Warriors/Scotland) for Vunipola, Kyle Sinckler (Bristol Bears/England) for Furlong (all 55 mins), Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors/Scotland) for Murray, Owen Farrell (Saracens/England) for Biggar (both 57), Taulupe Faletau (Bath/Wales) for Conan (59), Elliot Daly (Saracens/England) for Harris (61), Tadhg Beirne (Munster/Ireland) for Lawes (70).
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand)