Wings Josh Adams and Louis Rees-Zammit were front and centre as the British & Irish Lions delivered a statement performance to take down the local Lions at Ellis Park in their tour opener on Saturday.
Adams bagged four tries and Rees-Zammit went over for the first try of the tour, as the wing duo accounted for five of the Lions’ eight tries in their 56-14 dismantling of the Golden Lions.
Gameflow: After many challenges and much uncertainty for many different reasons – none more so than the global Covid-19 pandemic – the British & Irish Lions tour of South Africa is finally under way and the tourists laid down an early marker, which should put their upcoming opponents on high alert.
As for the fixture itself, the home side were always going to be up against it in this battle against their more accomplished opponents, but falling off tackles and poor execution made the task at hand that much more difficult for Ivan van Rooyen’s men.
On their part, the B&I Lions will be all too pleased with their clinical performance, but even more so to have come through the game unscathed in terms of injuries.
The visitors started at a high tempo and with a level of intensity that seemed to startle the Sigma Lions, which is understandable considering the gulf in experience and collective prestige between the sides. Another facet of the B&I Lions’ game which should particularly interest the Springboks, was their defensive cohesion.
Using the width of the field, the B&I Lions confidently varied their attack and it was through their ball retention and continuity that wing Louis Rees-Zammit scored the opening try down the right flank. It didn’t take long for flank Hamish Watson to grab the second try to double their lead. And while it took a while yet, scrumhalf Ali Price would score from a wrap-around move off the back of a lineout, caching the Lions ball watching and flat-footed.
Trailing by 21 after Owen Farrell had succeeded with all his conversion attempts, the home side upped the ante. Previously starved of possession and territory, they would go on to score from turnover possession deep inside their own half. Using the width, Burger Odendaal broke free down the left flank and although he was hauled in, the damage was done as quick ball from the ruck had EW Viljoen releasing Vincent Tshituka with a loopy pass to score for a 21-7 half-time scoreline. Though, it has to be said that the damage on the scoreboard could’ve been greater for the hosts if the the B&I Lions had not have one of their tries disallowed following a dangerous clean-out by Courtney Lawes.
After putting up a valiant fight in the first half, the home team were left in the dust in the second as the B&I Lions took the game by the scruff of the neck.
The sides traded tries in the opening three minutes after the interval, but as the game wore on the Golden Lions’ defence became more and more fragmented and the tourists exploited that capitulation at will. Adams was the recipient of his team’s clinical superiority with all his scores coming in the second half. Their only other five-pointer came courtesy of replacement scrumhalf Gareth Davies.
Players who shone: As mentioned above, Adams scored four tries for the Lions and will in all probability hog the headlines, but playing at inside centre, Owen Farrell was excellent in that midfield channel and flawless off the kicking tee as he booted eight conversions out of eight attempts.
Hamish Watson was another who produced an eye-catching performance which enhanced his bid for a place in the B&I Lions Test team.
For the hosts, Tshituka was the standout performer and their starting front row – Nathan McBeth, PJ Botha and Ruan Dreyer – were rock solid at scrum time not taking a step backward.