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British & Irish Lions
A tour to remember
Scrum.com
July 5, 2009

As the British & Irish Lions prepare to head home from South Africa, we take a look back at the matches that shaped a fascinating contest between the tourists and the victorious Springboks.

Royal XV 25-37 British & Irish Lions, Royal Bafokeng Stadium, Rustenberg, May 30, 2009

The British & Irish Lions stuttered to their first win on tour in Rustenberg. The game was played at altitude against opposition made up of players from outside of the Super 14 franchises, yet the Lions looked punch drunk conceding two tries inside ten first-half minutes. Centre Keith Earls struggled to claim a number of high-balls and made several knock-ons in a nightmare debut.

The Lions had problems at the breakdown, which set the tone for the opening matches on tour, but fought back from 25-13 down inside the closing 15 minutes. The attendance for the game was poor due to the fact that it preceded the Super 14 final between the Bulls and the Chiefs.

Key Player: Ronan O'Gara

The Irishman was impressive landing four conversions, three penalties and scoring the fourth try to seal the victory. He put down a decent marker here to claim a Test spot ahead of Stephen Jones in a game where few of his teammates impressed let alone delivered.

Golden Lions 10-74 British & Irish Lions, Ellis Park, Johannesburg, June 3, 2009

The Lions ran in 10 tries against the Golden Lions in a scintillating display that showed a real statement of intent. The tourists saw the return of Brian O'Driscoll as captain after his Test series was cut short in New Zealand four years ago.

The Irishman had not played a competitive match since Leinster's victory over Leicester in the Heineken Cup two weeks before but his midfield partnership with Jamie Roberts ignited immediately and was to be one of the tour highlights. The Welsh centre scored two tries and O'Driscoll got his first Lions' try since 2005. Ugo Monye and Tommy Bowe both claimed braces.

Key player: Jamie Roberts

Roberts backed up after the previous weekend's exertions in Rustenberg, and delivered a performance of rare pace and power alongside O'Driscoll.

Free State Cheetahs 24-26 British & Irish Lions, Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein, June 6, 2009

The tourists were 20-0 ahead in as many minutes after tries from Keith Earls and Stephen Ferris but thoughts of another demolition job were short lived when they were pegged back by a determined Cheetahs outfit who scored three tries and possessed a trump card in openside flanker Heinrich Brussow.

Brussow was out to impress after missing out on the Springbok squad, and continued the Lions' breakdown woes. Had a last-gasp drop-goal from Louis Strydom not sailed wide, the Lions would have been licking their wounds after a demoralising defeat.

Key player: Heinrich Brussow

He dominated the battle at the breakdown and produced an eye-catching display that would earn him a Test call-up. His performance would have given the Lions sleepless nights over the breakdown as their problems resurfaced.

Natal Sharks 3-39 British & Irish Lions, Kings Park, Durban, June 10, 2009

The Lions put in a more assured display against the Sharks but provided little to scare the Springboks. The tourists managed five tries but only one in a first-half when they dominated possession and territory.

Mike Phillips' Man of the Match performance meant that he was a certain Test starter at No.9 and fullback Lee Byrne was also impressive with his incisive runs when joining the line.

Key Player: Mike Phillips

Phillips was one of five try scorers and his all-round performance was excellent. Behind a dominant pack he was a constant menace, his superb individual try showcasing his pace and power around the fringes.

British & Irish Lions match winner James Hook celebrates after the game against Western Province, Newlands, Cape Town, June 13, 2009
James Hook celebrates after victory over Western Province © Getty Images
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Western Province 23-26 British & Irish Lions, Newlands, Cape Town, June 13, 2009

The Lions had to overcome a hugely spirited Province outfit and the elements to win 26-23 at Newlands. In cold and wet conditions the Lions dominated the lineout, scrum and the breakdown but caused themselves problems when they tried to be too expansive.

Martyn Williams was impressive at the breakdown and staked a claim for the Test side as did Rob Kearney at fullback but Stephen Jones struggled and it was his fellow countryman, James Hook, who kicked late match-winning penalty following tries for Bowe and Monye.

Key player: Tommy Bowe

He timed his run into form perfectly to be a certainty for the first Test. His incisive run from the right wing to score his try and his deft hands in setting up Monye were big positives for the tourists.

Southern Kings 8-20 British & Irish Lions, Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth, June 16, 2009

In their final warm-up game of the tour the Lions were subjected to a physical barrage from South Africa's Super 15 side-in-waiting. De Wet Barry, formerly of Harlequins, was at the forefront and ruffled the feathers of the tourists, centre Gordon D'Arcy in particular.

Victory was secured thanks to a try from Monye and a penalty try, but the Lions' breakdown problems continued throughout. Joe Worsley started on the openside as Martyn Williams and David Wallace went head-to-head for the Test berth, but it was Ireland fly-half Ronan O'Gara who steered the tourists home with some reassuring goalkicking. A physical encounter saw James Hook and Euan Murray forced off the field, Hook suffering a head injury and Murray being ruled out of the tour with an ankle problem.

Key Player: Ronan O'Gara

The Lions fly-half was a steadying influence as all hell broke loose at the new Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.

South Africa 26-21 British & Irish Lions, first Test, Kings Park, Durban, June 20, 2009

The talking was over, and in front of another disappointing crowd at Kings Park it was the Springboks who struck first. In a first-half performance brimming with power and menace the hosts tore through the Lions, skipper John Smit scoring an early try before Tendai 'Beast' Mtawarira demolished the Lions scrum and his opposite prop Phil Vickery.

The Boks mauled a hugely impressive second try to seal their dominance, before coach Peter de Villiers withdrew his key men. Smit, Fourie du Preez, Heinrich Brussow, Bakkies Botha and Jean de Villiers were all replaced - sparking a Lions comeback. Tom Croft added a second try to a first-half effort and scrum-half Mike Phillips crashed over to draw the Lions to within a converted try. The clock was against them however, and the Boks held on. Winger Ugo Monye saw two gilt-edged chance go begging - his pain emphasised by countless replays.

Key Player: John Smit

The Springbok skipper scored the opening try and returned to the field late on to calm his troop s as they desperately held on to their narrow lead.

Emerging Springboks 13-13 British & Irish Lions, Newlands, Cape Town, June 23, 2009

With the Lions in dire need of some momentum heading in to the second Test at altitude in Pretoria they descended on Cape Town in apocalyptic conditions. In the driving rain the Lions made an excellent start with a try from Keith Earls, but were pegged back by the conditions and some enterprising play under the circumstances from Emerging Boks scrum-half Jaano Vermaak.

The home side scored a late try through replacement wing Danwel Demas following a loose kick by James Hook, the score leaving Willem de Waal with a touchline conversion. Through the wind and rain he was dead-eyed, ending the Lions' hopes of winning all of their tour matches.

Key Player: Willem de Waal

With the pressure on, the fly-half made no mistake to send a prophetic warning to the tourists. South Africa 28-25 British & Irish Lions, second Test, Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria, June 26, 2009

In one of the most explosive openings to any Test match, a week's worth of headlines were conjured by flanker Schalk Burger's sin-binning for making contact with the eyes of Lions wing Luke Fitzgerald.

With Burger in the bin, the Lions took the lead thanks to a majestic try by fullback Rob Kearney and some excellent kicking by Stephen Jones. The Boks hit back through JP Pietersen but trailed at the halfway point. In the second-half the Lions were gutted by injuries, Brian O'Driscoll, Jamie Roberts, Gethin Jenkins and the 'Beast' tamer Adam Jones all departing as the Springboks fought back.

Bryan Habana and Jaque Fourie crossed the whitewash, but Jones' final kick in a 20-point haul drew the scores level at 25-25. After a terrible misjudgement by replacement O'Gara, who took out du Preez in the air, replacement Springbok fly-half Morne Steyn landed a 50m penalty to break the Lions' hearts.

Key Player: Morne Steyn

What a kick by the Bulls man, whose precision and nerve secured the series for the hosts.

South Africa 9-28 British & Irish Lions, third Test, Ellis Park, Johannesburg, July 4, 2009

With the series gone, an injury ravaged Lions headed to face a much-changed Springboks side in Johannesburg. With five players having been hospitalised following the second Test the tourists handed debuts to Joe Worsley and Riki Flutey and a first Test start to Martyn Williams. The home side were without Bakkies Botha after he was banned for an illegal clear-out, the squad wearing white armbands in protest.

It was another Welsh Williams who set the tourists on their way, winger Shane scoring a first-half brace of tries in a scintillating opening gambit. Monye grasped partial redemption for his profligacy in the opening Test with an interception try, and the Lions had their first Test victory since the opener against Australia in 2001.

Key Player: Shane Williams

He failed to shine in the early part of the tour, but looked razor-sharp at Ellis Park.

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