Roberts takes heart from incisive showing

Jamie Roberts is thrilled the Lions’ midfield fired but expects the Springbok defence to be better in the second Test.

The hard-running Wales No 12 has been talked up since the first tour match, and in his first Test for the Lions he did not disappoint. Together with midfield partner Brian O’Driscoll, Roberts terrorised the Bok defence, punching holes and delivering offloads that unfortunately never amounted to the maximum points on the scoreboard.

The Lions went down 26-21, but the midfield made a massive statement. Coach Ian McGeechan lauded their synergy in the aftermath and Roberts believes they’ll be even better come the outing at Loftus Versfeld.

‘They will be better, so we will have to be better,’ he told keo.co.za. ‘We always knew they were going to be direct and not take it past their flyhalf much. Their lack of width on attack was no surprise.

‘But on defence, I seriously doubt they’ll give us as much space next week as they did [on Saturday]. They’ll mix and match and really look to improve that aspect of their game.’

McGeechan gave Roberts and O’Driscoll an opportunity to develop in the preliminary matches against the Golden Lions and the Sharks and was clearly pleased with the results. Roberts believes the partnership can only get better.

‘Brian did some fantastic things, it really was a privilege to play alongside him. The set up of Tom Croft’s try just showed his vision and his communication was also very good.

‘However, there were a number of chances that went begging and we have to be more clinical. We were crossing the gain line, and credit must go to the forwards because they were creating the space for us to attack, but we need to finish more strongly next week.’

Roberts said the team was very disappointed to lose but the quality of performance and fightback from a position where they were 26-7 down gives him hope.

‘The series is far from lost. I think we shot ourselves in the foot by conceding those early penalties, and we’ll definitely look for a more disciplined start next week.

‘At one stage it looked as if we were facing a cricket score, but we always believed we could come back. In the second half we were attacking very well and there was that point near the end where Ricky Januarie dropped a high ball that I thought “This is ours to win”. In the last 20 minutes we really showed what we’re all about. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t meant to be.

‘But it’s far from over. We’ll take heart from that performance and build towards next week. If we didn’t believe we could win we shouldn’t be here.’

By Jon Cardinelli, at King’s Park