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History repeats itself as 37-year-old Steyn kicks Boks to victory over the Lions

The replacement out-half slotted two late penalties to win it for the Boks.

South Africa 19

Lions 16

12 YEARS AGO, Morné Steyn’s late penalty won the Lions series for the Springboks and he did it again tonight in Cape Town with a 79th-minute shot at goal.

morne-steyn-kicks-a-late-penalty-to-give-his-side-the-lead Steyn was the match winner for the Boks. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

The 37-year-old held his nerve in the tensest conditions as the Boks just edged out Warren Gatland’s Lions, who will rue a host of huge missed chances across the course of the game.

Their policy of kicking penalties into the corner proved to be costly as they turned down a probable nine points to pursue tries. They did manage to convert one of those big calls into their only try of the game but Gatland and co. will have massive regrets.

They should really have been out of sight at half time, with a Liam Williams non-pass to Josh Adams also among their list of failures to convert, and the Boks improved in the second half to muscle their way ahead.

It all came down to the dramatic closing minutes, though, and Steyn held his composure after being sprung from the bench.

The Boks’ win also included a stunning try from right wing Cheslin Kolbe on what was one of his few touches in this underwhelming series.

This game was notable for the impact of the replacement out-halves, as the Lions had to send Finn Russell on early due to Dan Biggar’s injury. The Scot was outstanding but it was Steyn who delivered the winning touch.

It all means Rassie Erasmus, Jacques Nienaber and their players can celebrate tonight in Cape Town as they backed up their 2019 World Cup glory with a Lions series success.

ken-owens-scores-a-try-and-celebrates-with-bundee-aki-and-duhan-van-der-merwe Ken Owens scored for the Lions in the first half. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The Lions led 10-6 at the interval but the first half was really a tale of missed opportunities for Gatland’s side.

Biggar was wide from the tee with a kickable penalty just three minutes in and it was the Boks who opened the scoring after Bundee Aki failed to roll away from a tackle amidst some sharp South African attack, with Handré Pollard popping over the three points.

Russell made an impressive impact off the bench though and sparked some promising Lions attacking play before slotting a 17th-minute penalty after Tadhg Furlong got one over Steven Kitshoff at the scrum.

Directly from the restart, the Lions put together a sweeping attack as Jack Conan and captain Alun Wyn Jones offloaded out of their own 22 before Russell directed traffic wonderfully and the Boks gave up a kickable penalty as they scrambled.

The Lions declined the probable three points and nudged the ball into the left corner, where a patient five-metre maul guided hooker Ken Owens over for a try, with Russell converting for a 10-3 Lions lead.

The tourists were on top but a series of missed chances followed. First, Williams failed to put Adams away for what looked like a certain try down the right-hand side with no Boks cover in behind.

maro-itoje-with-eben-etzebeth Maro Itoje makes a break for the Lions. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The Lions were playing penalty advantage on that occasion and again opted to go into the left corner rather than take the three points, but this time Tom Curry gave up a sloppy penalty for obstruction ahead of the ball.

They were soon back in the Boks’ 22 and making a linebreak through Maro Itoje off another Jones offload but Springboks centre Damian de Allende produced a massive breakdown turnover.

There was a brief respite for the shaky South Africans as Frans Malherbe won a scrum penalty off Wyn Jones, allowing Pollard to kick them back to within four points at 10-6.

And the Lions had another major miss before the break as they once again opted against kicking at the posts to go into the corner, on the right this time, after the impressive Robbie Henshaw and Curry combined for a turnover.

Eben Etzebeth stole their lineout before a Boks knock-on and when the Lions tried to batter their way over from the ensuing five-metre scrum, South African captain Siya Kolisi delivered another momentous breakdown turnover penalty to lift the siege.

lukhanyo-am-with-robbie-henshaw Lukhanyo Am claims a restart for the Boks. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

The Boks started the second half with an aerial win and a second big scrum penalty for Malherbe against Jones – who was immediately replaced by the Lions – but the tourists defended the ensuing maul and phase-play carrying very strongly.

Frustratingly for the Lions, Curry was penalised for not rolling away from the tackle on the next Springboks attack but Pollard hit the post from straight in front and 40 metres out in what was a big let-off. 

A rare error from the otherwise excellent Conan saw him knock the ball on after a scrappy lineout win and poor pass from Ali Price, handing the Boks another scrum platform but Josh Adams came up with a breakdown turnover on the resulting attack.

Referee Mathieu Raynal then had a big call to make as a tackle from Russell saw him connect with Cheslin Kolbe’s head and he decided it was a penalty only as the Scot had tried to wrap and there was mitigation of Kolbe slipping just before the contact.

Again, though, Pollard was wide with his shot at goal. It looked like the Lions had escaped scoreboard punishment but then the Boks struck in characteristic fashion in the 57th minute.

They gathered in the scraps of an aerial contest on their own 10-metre line out on the right-hand side, with Lukhanyo Am darting away and offloading to Willie le Roux, who surged into the Lions half and fed Kolbe for a stunning finish as he stepped inside Liam Williams and then fended replacement hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie to dance away.

cheslin-kolbe-scores-their-first-try Kolbe scores for the Boks. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

An interminable TMO review followed but there was no evidence that Jasper Wiese had knocked the ball on in the aerial contest and Pollard was able to convert for a 13-10 lead with 22 minutes remaining.

The Lions reacted with back-to-back knock-ons from Williams and Price, the second of them giving the Boks an attacking scrum on the right just outside the Lions’ 22 but Kyle Sinckler, just on the pitch, won a penalty at the set-piece.

Wiese was then penalised for a needless late hit on Russell and the Lions out-half nailed his shot at goal to level the game at 13-13 in the 63rd minute.

With the game in the balance, the Boks sent on Steyn in place of Pollard and he had an immediate chance off the tee following a maul penalty. From out on the right, Steyn nailed it.

But Itoje and Curry pulled off a breakdown turnover to send the Lions back on the attack and, once again, they decided to go into the left corner after winning a penalty – with Etzebeth perhaps lucky to avoid a yellow card.

It was a huge decision and the Lions very nearly scored after their maul was sacked, with sub loosehead Mako Vunipola just held up over the tryline.

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finn-russell-kicks-a-penalty-to-level-the-scores-at-13-13 Finn Russell kicks a penalty for the Lions. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The Lions had a five-metre scrum but Sinckler was penalised for going to his knee under pressure from Boks replacement loosehead Trevor Nyakane. A huge moment.

Gatland’s men needed a big moment in response and it was Henshaw who delivered with a scything run in midfield to draw a penalty from the Boks, Am lucky to avoid yellow for killing the ball. This time, the Lions went for the posts and Russell landed it for 16-16 with five minutes left on the clock.

The Lions needed composure but Russell knocked on under the high ball to hand possession to the Boks and they won a penalty for the tourists’ failure to roll away.

Replacement scrum-half Herschel Jantjies then made a crazy decision to quick tap the penalty straight in front of the posts and 35 metres out but Raynal saved him by ruling that the tap hadn’t been on the mark. Steyn landed his winning shot.

The Lions won the restart back and had one final scrum to rescue the game but the Boks won another set-piece penalty and celebrated their series success.

South Africa scorers:

Tries: Cheslin Kolbe

Conversions: Handré Pollard [1 from 1]

Penalties: Morné Steyn [2 from 2], Handré Pollard [2 from 4]

Lions scorers:

Tries: Ken Owens

Conversions: Finn Russell [1 from 1]

Penalties: Finn Russell [3 from 3], Dan Biggar [0 from 1]

SOUTH AFRICA: Willie le Roux (Damian Willemse ’78); Cheslin Kolbe, Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende, Makazole Mapimpi; Handré Pollard (Morné Steyn ’65), Cobus Reinach (Herschel Jantjies ’63); Steven Kitshoff (Trevor Nyakane ’61), Bongi Mbonambi (Malcolm Marx ’63), Frans Malherbe (Vincent Koch ’56); Eben Etzebeth, Lood de Jager (Kwagga Smith ’54); Siya Kolisi (captain) (Marco van Staden ’56), Franco Mostert (blood bid – Kwagga Smith ’13 to ’20), Jasper Wiese (blood bin – Siya Kolisi ’63).

LIONS: Liam Williams; Josh Adams, Robbie Henshaw, Bundee Aki, Duhan van der Merwe; Dan Biggar (Finn Russell ’11), Ali Price (Conor Murray ’59); Wyn Jones (Mako Vunipola ’44), Ken Owens (Luke Cowan-Dickie ’53), Tadhg Furlong (Kyle Sinckler ’59); Maro Itoje, Alun Wyn Jones (captain) (Adam Beard ’61); Courtney Lawes, Tom Curry, Jack Conan (Sam Simmonds ’63).

Replacements: Elliot Daly.

Referee: Mathieu Raynal [France].

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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