Before we get our teeth into my analysis of yesterday’s events in Cape Town, my editor reminded me that my first novel, Losing The Plot was published two years ago today. If you’ve not read it, may I suggest that you hop over to your local Amazon and pick up a copy?
Now … down to the rugby!
On the subject of Losing The Plot, that pretty much sums up what happened yesterday.
“When Plan ‘’A isn’t working, you just do Plan ‘A’ better.”
How very Martin Johnson, how very England Rugby, and now – sadly – it seems to be the British & Irish Lions mantra as well.
Beause when they began to lose the aerial battle, there was no back-up plan.
The second test, played at Cape Town Stadium yesterday was far from a classic, and confirmed my opinion that the touring party selected to represent the Lions is the weakest to have left these shores in living memory – probably ever.
That the Lions somehow managed to scrape an unexpected victory in the first meeting – however magnificent an achievement this was – was largely down to South African naivety, lack of match fitness and the brilliance and work rate of Maro Itoge and Courtney Lawes. It hurts to write this as an Irishman, but respect is due.
Yesterday was a humiliating experience and I do not expect the Lions to lick their collective wounds sufficient to win the decider. I hope I’m wrong, but as I predicted a 3-0 series win for the hosts, now that they have worked out and exploited the weaknesses of their opponents, they have them at their mercy.
Not only that, Rassie Erasmus’ unprofessional, unethical and unsportsmanlike rants unquestionably caused doubts to enter the minds of the officials.
Robbie Henshaw’s try was a try, Lukhanyo Am’s was not. The colour of Cheslin Kolbe’s card should have been red and not yellow, and Faf de Klerk’s high challenge without his arms on Murray, wasn’t even reviewed.
However, in order to show objectivity, Tom Curry should have – at least – been penalised for provoking a reaction from Kolbe, and the South African media are baying for blood and accusing Hogg of biting Willie le Roux’s arm, and also citing Itoje, for appearing to “rest his knee” on Damian de Allende’s throat.
So here is my analysis of individual performances, followed by my recommendations for the final test. I hope you’re reading this Warren, because this is the only way to reverse yesterday’s embarrassment and win the series. Mark my words!
BRITISH & IRISH LIONS. Marks out of 10
15. Stuart Hogg – 2: inefficient under high ball, added nothing in attack and out of position for ‘Boks’ second try. Dreadful – should not be anywhere near the stadium for decider.
14. Anthony Watson – 3: Ineffective once again. Don’t know why he is even on the tour. He’s a decent club player but this series is not for him.
13. Chris Harris – 4: added nothing in attack. A couple of decent hits but you do not win a test series by picking players purely to stop the opposition scoring.
12. Robbie Henshaw – 7: his try should have been allowed. The Lions’ only effective attacking backline player.
11. Duhan van der Merwe – 2: a huge guy but no Lomu. Ineffective both in attack and defence, and also stupid. What was going through his head when he fly-hacked Kolbe? I’d have him on the next plane home.
10. Dan Biggar – 5: kicking from hand and tee was generally effective but he adds nothing in attack.
9. Conor Murray – 6: a solid performance. He needs players to play off him and this did not happen, mainly because of a) lack of ambition and, b) a pathetically weak back row (particularly 7).
1. Mako Vunipola – 5: scrummaged reasonably well. Best can be said of his role in attack was that he didn’t get in the way.
2. Luke Cowan-Dickie – 8: the only Lions player to show any passion (other than by chucking handbags). The stand out player, and the lineout totally disintegrated when he was replaced.
3. Tadhg Furlong – 6: scrummaged and defended well. Carried effectively.
4. Maro Itoje – 7: excellent in lineout in first half. Ran out of steam in second half.
5. Alun Wyn Jones – 4: his return to the tour and inclusion was weakened the team by ruling out more effective players (Henderson). Too old … too slow, but gets in the ref’s ear. That’s why he get 4/10 and not 2/10.
6. Courtney Lawes – 6: a solid performance. I wouldn’t have had him on the tour initially, but admit I was wrong. It happens. Rarely.
7. Tom Curry – 3: I really, really do not know what he’s doing in South Africa, other than behaving like an impetuous child. Weakest 7 ever to have pulled on a Lions shirt and should be immediately replaced.
8. Jack Conan – 6: Didn’t shine, should have scored when scrum wheeled early on, but is the best of two very poor options at 8. Unfortunately the third option (Sam Simmonds) will not be selected on grounds of size.
16. Ken Owens (on for Cowan-Dickie, 57) – 2: truly dreadful. Lineout was in tatters with him at the helm and added nothing in attack.
17. Rory Sutherland (on for Vunipola, 57) – 1: strong contender for award of “Worst Player Ever to Have Pulled on a Lions Shirt ”. Conceded a needless penalty at a maul. Should be sent home. Dreadful.
18. Kyle Sinckler (on for Furlong, 57) – 6: a reasonable 23 minutes.
19. Tadhg Beirne, (on for Lawes, 70) – N/A as he only had 10 minutes
20. Taulupe Faletau (on for Conan, 60) – 5: ineffective and demonstrated why is does not start. Failed to go anywhere other than backwards in attack.
21. Ali Price (on for Murray, 59) – 5: didn’t shine. Proved that Murray is a much better 9.
22. Owen Farrell (on for Biggar, 57) – 3 Gave away a needless penalty. The boy has no brain.
23. Elliot Daly (on for Harris, 62) – 3: confirmed – if confirmation were needed – that he is not a centre and should not start. Not sure why he is on the tour either.
- Change entire back 3. Start with Adams, Williams and Rees-Zammit, in the absence of anyone better. These three couldn’t do any worse.
- Fly out Sexton to start at 10
- Fly out Josh van der Flier to start at 7
- Get CJ Stander out of his gangster lookalike suit and the commentary box and start him at 8
- Drop AW Jones and replace him with Henderson.
- Get rid of Will Greenwood on commentary. He is the most irritating f***er on television, and his East Midlands accent grates.
- Finally, Warren, maybe your boys could attempt to play rugby, and not kickball!
So there you have it, amig@s!