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The British and Irish Lions served up a host of great moments during their 10-match tour to South Africa, despite the series going against them.
After narrow defeats in the opening two Tests, the Lions avoided the whitewash when they cut loose in Johannesburg.
And the army of Lions fans - plus the millions of supporters back in Britain and Ireland - will have a number of memories to last a lifetime.
So skysports.com'sTony Curtis looks back at 10 highlights from the tour...
A sea of red swarmed all over South Africa, with the four home unions pulling together as one. And they certain made their mark on their hosts. Two bars in Port Elizabeth were drunk dry by the thirsty tourists, while Durban airport suffered the same fate. Despite problems over the ticket pricing policy of the South Africans, the Lions fans made the most of the occasion, with the chant of "Liiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiooooooooooooooonnnnnnnnnnnnsssssssss! Liiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiooooooooooooooonnnnnnnnnnnnsssssssss!" being heard at every ground. Like the players, they did the traditions of the Lions proud.
The combination of the mercurial Irishman and the Welsh battering ram proved to be a match made in heaven. From the moment they lined up together for the first time against the Golden Lions in the second tour game, the duo seemed to have a telepathic understanding. Together they tormented the South Africans, with Roberts providing the hard graft to O'Driscoll's class. Roberts rightly collected the player of the series award, but he owes a large slice of thanks to his partner O'Driscoll. Arguably one of the best centre pairings the Lions have ever seen and a pleasure to watch.
Backs coach Rob Howley will return home with his reputation enhanced as the Lions ran in some wonderful tries - and outscored the hosts 7-5 in the Tests. It is difficult to single out one in particular, with Tommy Bowe, Tom Croft and Ugo Monye all crossing for memorable scores, but Williams' second in Johannesburg was a peach. The Lions stole the ball at the breakdown 10m inside their own half, with quick ball finding Riki Flutey out on the opposite flank. The England centre chipped the ball over the on-rushing Odwa Ndungane and with Zane Kirchner charging in to cover, Flutey was able to get his hands to the bouncing ball first and flick it back inside to Williams for the Welsh wing to score.
Former England captain Phil Vickery came in for a large slice of criticism following his first-half mauling by The Beast in Durban. Vickery, who had impressed during the warm-up games, endured a torrid 45 minutes as decision after decision went against him at the scrum. It can't have helped his pride to see Adam Jones enter the fray and treat the much-heralded Tendai Mtawarira like a front-row novice. However, with Jones' tour ended by injury, Vickery was called upon again for the final Test - and how the Wasps man responded to the challenge. The first scrum on eight minutes saw the Beast and hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle pop up as Vickery, Matthew Rees and Andrew Sheridan got the shove on, with referee Stuart Dickinson awarding the Lions the penalty. The relief on Vickery's face was clear to see.
The former Lions, England and Leicester prop was like a breath of fresh air to the press conference. Funny, open and honest, Rowntree didn't dodge anything. Having amused journalists with, "Any questions? I am all ears" the Lions scrum coach shouldered responsibility when the pack faltered and refused to gloat when things went his way. After the first Test, when some questioned the way Mtawarira went into the scrum, Rowntree chose to focus at his side's own failings. On the side of the pitch during the games, Rowntree looked like he was itching to get out there - although his grimace after one hit from DeWet Barry in the game against the Southern Kings seemed to indicate perhaps he was happier on the sidelines!
Straight out of David Pleat's book of celebratory jigs, Edwards simply couldn't contain his delight when Ugo Monye broke away to score in the third Test. The try effectively put the game beyond the Boks - and Edwards was swept away in the moment as he bounded down the touchline. It was a game when Edwards struggled to keep the emotions in check, as he also got carried away when Odwa Ndungane had his late try chalked off and again at the final whistle. But after a performance like that, who could blame him!
There is no doubt that being handed the Lions captaincy - albeit for the midweek side - meant a lot to the Irishman. However one mascot was given a unique insight into O'Callaghan's motivational skills. Having led the boy out on the pitch and called his players into a pre-match huddle, O'Callaghan decided to let the mascot join in. What the lad made of the team talk remains to be seen, however you suspect he has learnt one or two new colourful phrases.
There is a common belief in Ireland that there's nothing Brian O'Driscoll can't do, including walking on water. However that myth was exposed on the tour after a trip to the bathroom at the British High Commissioner's house in Johannesburg almost ended in disaster. The Irishman mistook the swimming pool covering for a piece of lawn - and two steps in, found himself sinking!
The Springboks coach did little to cover himself in glory during the series, with his off-hand remarks to the press and passionate defence of Schalk Burger leaving a bitter taste in the mouth. However his rant when questioned whether he was the weak link in the South Africa side was comedy gold. "I am a God-given talent. I am the best ever that I can be, so what you think don't bother me. I know what I am so I don't give a damn." And with lyrics like that, there is no wonder he has been dubbed as P-Divvy!
The Lions may have lost - and in the cruellest of circumstances having played so well - but this game will live long in the memory as one of the greatest games ever. From the drama of Schalk Burger's skulduggery, to some thrilling Lions attacking play, to a roaring Boks comeback, to all the injuries, to a late leveller for the tourists, to the winner for Morne Steyn... the game had it all. It was difficult not to get drawn into the whole occasion - and then to be left completely deflated afterwards. What the game also showed was that all the ELVs that the Southern Hemisphere unions had banged on about as being crucial to saving the game were not needed - and that the maul remains a vital part of attacking play.
@John Potter = not really. If you read some of the biggest south african media and press sources (please see supersport, keo etc.) their reflection on the tour is far fairer where credit is given to both teams and all parties. @ Ian Griff = I believe the article is about the Lions TOUR, not the Lions TEAM! A tour encompasses far more than just the team touring and as such the article should have reflected this! The fact that PDV's rants made it onto the list illustrates this - back I guess you did not read that far!
Posted 13:49 7th July 2009
Great tour, some of the best test ive ever seen. Shaw, Roberts, Kearney, O'd, Heaslip all played great. Peter Innes, no doubt the South African press are one sided biased towards the boks ???
Posted 09:52 7th July 2009
Credit to the Boks where it's due, they were awesome. I think the Lions know how Andy Roddick must feel, played there hearts out, probably deserved to win the series but just came up short. The Boks are just so tough. It's hard to warm to them as people because they don't always play fair, you look at the disgrace by Burger in the 2nd test or Brussow tossing people around in test 3 long after the ball has gone. i think the Lions would be world champions if they entered a team but clearly that would reduce a sport that has already too few teams even further. Well done to both teams and both sets of fans.
Posted 09:19 7th July 2009
I would add when Adam Jones made the Bocks front row stand up in the scrum on the 5 meter line.
Posted 23:43 6th July 2009
Another well written and completely one sided article. It's almost as though the Lions were the only reason this tour was a success. No mention of any of their opposition's places, fans or players. Only mentions were negative - i.e. PDV rants or Burger's eye gouging. The rugby on this tour has been amazing and credit should go to the Lions, Boks and some of the provincial teams, but following this tour has been hell purely because of all the biased coverage and media and whinging from the British press. I doubt my comments will make it onto the website but the real winners of this tour were the Lions and Boks players, the Lions supporters in SA and the SA communities and locals. The real losers were the referring, citing commitees, biased press and the two coaches who both conspired at times to lose series through bad selection, poor tactics and terrible subs!
Posted 16:51 6th July 2009
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