That was the Lions performance we all wanted to see. The performance we should have seen in the opening match. Dominating from start to finish, the men in red gave us something to get excited about.
The contrast between the motivation, determination and passion pouring out of the team yesterday by comparison with Saturday’s match was stark. The first five minutes of the match brought back memories of the ’97 crop in the way the forwards blitzed the ruck, smashing holes through the middle for other players to pick and go through. The Lions will have to be wary of how they use this tactic as at times they were simply holding defenders away to the sides but such was the pace of the attack the referee didn’t notice.
The forwards set the platform for the first try, as the ball was spun out to O’Driscoll who performed his classic out-stop-in manoeuvre to wrong foot the defence and pop for Roberts to score.
After the opening try it was time for the Tommy Bowe show as he claimed assists for the next three scores and still found time to score two of his own later in the game, such was the completeness of his performance. One more match like that would surely propel Bowe into the test starting XV, to join Lee Byrne (whose Saturday showing slightly outshone Kearney’s decent performance yesterday) in the back three leaving Monye, Williams, Kearney, Fitzgerald and Halfpenny to fight for one wing spot.
Monye re-emphasised his solid reputation as an excellent finisher with gas to burn although a few handling and positional errors hampered his performance slightly. However with the threat of Habana and Monye’s propensity for smothering cover tackles, that may be enough to give him the berth.
As the match wore on, the Lions maintained their high level of performance and through excellent team-play there were further tries for Croft, Hook and Ferris. Aside from some needless penalties for holding on at the rucks, the Lions continued to dominate both in set plays and in the loose and were deserving of the impressive margin of victory.
However, just as Saturday’s performance shouldn’t have resulted in ultimate pessimism, neither should this performance result in over-confidence. Granted, the Golden Lions are a Super 14 side however they were under-strength and made a multitude of basic errors to gift the Lions field position and tries.
A rational assessment of the strength of the team would be that we are starting to develop strong partnerships around the field (Mears throwing in to Wyn-Jones and Croft, Vickery and Jenkins scrummaging together, Roberts and O’Driscoll in the centres, Bowe expertly linking with anyone happening to be in support!) and a sense of how this team should attempt to play against the Boks. There is still a long way to go but we’re headed in the right direction.