Mon, Jun 15, 2009 - Page 18 News List

Lions suffer scare against Western Province but win

HOOK THE HERO Western Province, missing four Springboks, gave the touring side a run for their money before James Hook’s long-range penalty proved decisive

REUTERS , CAPE TOWN

Tommy Bowe of the British and Irish Lions, right, runs with the ball as Western Province’s Joe Pietersen, left, tries to tackle him in Cape Town, South Africa, on Saturday.

PHOTO: AP

The British and Irish Lions suffered the biggest scare of their South African tour as they edged a persistent Western Province team 26-23 at Newlands in Cape Town on Saturday.

The Lions had to call on a 76th-minute penalty from replacement full-back James Hook, summoned on to the field after 65 minutes to replace the injured Rob Kearney, to avoid a shock upset against a side that failed to shine in the Super 14.

The tourists seemed set for a fifth successive triumph when they led 18-9 with a minute to go in the first half, thanks to tries by wings Tommy Bowe and Ugo Monye and two penalties and a conversion by flyhalf Stephen Jones.

However, Western Province, without four Springboks, threatened to upset the form book as they chipped away at the Lions’ lead.

A try by Joe Pietersen made the score 23-23 with 15 minutes to go.

The Lions failed to deviate much from a conservative game plan in windy conditions and a gutsy defensive effort by Western Province blocked many of their attacks.

The Lions also had much the worse of referee Mark Lawrence’s decisions at the breakdown and, with the home side able to call on a reliable goal-kicker in fly-half Willem de Waal, the visitors were punished to the tune of four penalties.

Both De Waal and Pietersen also kicked drop goals in the first half.

For the Lions, Kearney stood out with his assured play at the back, while Bowe’s pace and power was another plus.

De Waal kicked a 45m penalty into the wind to open the scoring after two-and-a-half minutes of solid action from the kick-off, but Jones cancelled out the lead with two penalties of his own in the first 10 minutes.

Western Province used drop goals to make the most of their occasional visits to the Lions 22, and the home side were leading 9-6 on the half-hour.

Martyn Williams then showed tremendous linking play to allow the Lions to get the ball quickly out wide and Bowe finished with power and precision.

Bowe came off his wing five minutes later and stepped inside to burst between two forwards, a long pass finding Monye out wide and allowing him to complete the try.

Jones converted to give the Lions a nine-point lead, but a De Waal penalty on the stroke of half-time was a big plus for Western Province and he added another seven minutes into the second half to close the gap to 18-15.

The Lions then took the ball through numerous phases in the 56th minute, Jones pulling the strings well, setting up a ruck within touching distance of the tryline from which Williams bulldozed over.

They conceded another breakdown penalty to De Waal midway through the second half and a break by Anton van Zyl and an long pass by De Waal gave Pietersen the space to slide over in the left corner.

De Waal’s conversion was wide to leave the scores at 23-23, but Western Province then lost their way at scrum time to concede three penalties in the last five minutes.

Hook succeeded from long-range, 15m in from the left touchline, to see the Lions to a surprisingly narrow victory.

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