Ian McGeechan and Paul O’Connell don’t understand why Lions’ tighthead Phil Vickery was penalised to such a detrimental degree.
Springbok loosehead Beast Mtawarira was named Man of the Match for his massive effort at scrum-time, an effort that ultimately allowed the Boks to sneak a 26-21 win at King’s Park. Referee Bryce Lawrence ruled Vickery failed to deal with the pressure and was resorting to illegal tactics at this set-piece.
Bok flyhalf Ruan Pienaar slotted the resultant penalties and these proved telling to the outcome.
‘It was very frustrating between the penalties we conceded and the tries we failed to score,’ O’Connell told keo.co.za. ‘Bryce said Phil was constantly going in on the angle, and to be honest, from where I was it was hard to tell.
‘How such an experienced player could make the same mistake five times in a row is beyond me. And it was the ref against us each time, never them.’
The scrum has been talked up by the UK media as an important area, and on Saturday it proved to be the determining area. Coach Ian McGeechan said it was hard to improve when you’re not sure what exactly you’re doing wrong.
‘It comes down to interpretation. The penalty count killed us, and like Paul said, why would an experienced prop repeatedly do that.
‘We will forward a review of this game to [IRB referee chief] Paddy O’Brien to get these decisions explained, and any issues will then be discussed in next week’s meeting with the referee [ahead of the second Test]. It’s important that we sort this out.’
Despite their gripes and improved showing in the second period, the Lions will head to Pretoria needing a win to keep the series alive. McGeechan said Saturday’s performance has shown the Boks are beatable.
‘We’re disappointed with the result, but we’re delighted with the performance. We were held up over the line three times and if you’re playing South Africa at home, you should be disappointed if you don’t do better to finish.
‘We had consistent scoring opportunities over the 80 minutes and gave away some soft penalties,’ McGeechan said. ‘This gave us a mountain to climb in the second half, and I’m proud of how the boys did.
‘It wasn’t a bad performance, but we just need to turn that pressure into more points. If you look at the quality of rugby we are playing, there’s good reason to believe we can hit back.’
By Jon Cardinelli, at King’s Park