McGeechan pleased with Lions' discipline
June 16, 2009
The Lions came through a physical encounter in Port Elizabeth © Getty Images
British & Irish Lions head coach Ian McGeechan praised his side's discipline after they were involved in a fierce battle with the Southern Kings at the newly-completed Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth.
The Lions lost two players - fly-half James Hook and prop Euan Murray - to injury while Kings fly-half Jaco van der Westhuyzen and lock Ross Skeate were both yellow carded in a fiercely contested game that will leave the tourists with question over their breakdown skills ahead of the first Test against the Springboks in Durban on Saturday.
Murray has undergone an X-ray and has been cleared of any break in his ankle, although the sprain that he did suffer will leave him struggling to make the Test shake-up. Hook has been ordered to undergo further tests after taking a knock to the head. Lions centre Gordon D'Arcy, meanwhile, appeared to refuse to shake hands with his opposite number De Wet Barry.
"There were some questionable tackles, but that's the way it is," said D'Arcy. "De Wet Barry is a good, physical, strong player. He's one of those guys who likes to get in amongst it. I shook his hand, but I didn't want to have a chat with him."
The Lions scored two tries but were far from convincing in a physical encounter. Ugo Monye scored the first try and the second was a penalty-try but the Lions went in at half-time level at 3-3.
"They (Southern Kings) wanted to make a game of it," said McGeechan. "It was pretty full on, and we had to keep enough composure to win the game, which was the very pleasing aspect of it. A penalty try proved technically that we kept our heads. We kept doing damage where it hurt them most. The players have swapped jerseys, and we move on. We've come out with a win - our composure was very important.
"I am really proud of the discipline we showed - it showed the players' focus - and they got their just reward."
McGeechan will now retire to select his Test side, due to be announced on Thursday, and will have seen little to influence his plans this afternoon, aside from a couple of bursts from No.8 Andy Powell and strong contributions from Adam Jones and Simon Shaw.
"We might have an initial chat tonight, but tomorrow we will go through every position and have a discussion," said McGeechan. "There are close calls in a number of areas. I thought we were very professional, which is what I was proud of. The players responded very well to each other. They wanted to produce a tough game for us, and they did that. They were keen to do well against us, and that's fine."
Lock Donncha O'Callaghan was handed the honour of leading the Lions, and was disappointed with a late try conceded to excellent Kings flank Mpho Mibiyozo.
"We were disappointed with the try we conceded at the end, to be honest," he said. "It was a hugely physical game, but there was no ill-feeling. Things go on in a game, and straight away after a game it's harder to forget about a few slaps in the face. At times, we gave away a few silly penalties, but the guys were very composed with an awful lot of stuff going on off the ball."
Southern Kings coach Alan Solomons was pleased his side had given the Lions an undoubtedly punishing physical examination and while the Lions made it six successive tour wins, the Kings produced a good account of themselves.
"I had been a little bit worried up front," said Solomons. "They picked a very big pack, but it worked to our advantage, because they struggled at the breakdown. We know they are a very physical side - they've made their intent known to try and beat South Africa physically. I felt we competed well throughout. We were certainly determined not to give them an easy ride physically. We didn't want to disappoint them."
"They (the Lions) simply have to win the first Test. If they don't, they will make a rod for their own backs with two games on the High Veld. Yes, one or two late hits occurred today, but the Lions are hardly angels, I would say. I don't think there was anything untoward. I believe the Test match on Saturday is going to be a massive physical contest. If the Lions lose, they've got a very difficult road ahead. It's a massive Test match with a huge amount at stake."