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Four Lions match play errors that proved fatal in the third Test

By Ian Cameron
Warren Gatland /PA

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As ever, on small things do big match hinge, and so it was for the British & Irish Lions who failed to beat the Springboks in a third Test, series decider in Cape Town Stadium last night.


What might sting the most for Warren Gatland’s men is that it felt like the game was theirs to be won but for a string of errors that ultimately saw the Springboks wrestle the game from their clutches.


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The Lions had struggled to score tries throughout the Test series, not least ones that involved their three-quarter line. When Liam Williams made a break down the right-wing, with Handre Pollard ahead of him and Josh Adams on the outside with a clear run to the try line, it felt like five points were in the offing. Williams instead shows the pass to Pollard before thinking better of it in an attempt to jag back infield for a go at the Bok flyhalf’s inside shoulder.

Pollard makes the tackle and the move was shut down.

Given it was relatively early in proceedings, it’s might be argued it’s unfair to characterise it as a fatal error, but tries had proved pivotal turning points for the Springboks in the ‘South Africa A’ game and in the second Test, as did Kolbe’s brilliant solo effort in the second half of the third.


The men in red appeared to have scored a second try only to be hauled back care of  a moment of ill-discipline from Tom Curry, who had needlessly broken his bind as the Lions maul trundled over the line. The score would have seen the Lions go 17 – 3 ahead, with the proviso of a tricky confusion for Russell to come.

With momentum still behind them, Finn Russell and the Lions kicked the corner after Curry had won a penalty off a restart. The odds were short that the subsequent lineout maul drive would result in a try for the Lions, but Eben Etzebeth had other ideas, poaching the ball from Alun Wyn Jones in a potential series saving intervention. The Lions were awarded a scrum in a decent attacking position a few minutes later but the imminent danger of the lineout maul had passed and the Lions couldn’t capitalise on the scrum.

The dire state of the surface at the Cape Town Stadium had made the Test match scrums an absolute mess, with neither side able to gain any sustained advantage at the setpiece.  With frequent scrum collapses the order of the series, referee Mathieu Raynal and his officials were looking for any reason to make a case for either side winning any given scrum contest. When replacement tighthead Sinckler took a knee a few moments before one such collapse in the 70th minute, it was enough to see the Lions penalised. With the score 16 – 13 to the Springboks, it felt like the ball game right there.


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