The Sky Sports rugby panel look back at how the 2009 British and Irish Lions almost made history.
The British and Irish Lions headed home having restored pride to the brand but ultimately falling agonisingly short of winning the series.
South Africa took the first two tests by the narrowest of margins before the Lions won the third and final in emphatic style. Many would argue that the visitors played the better rugby and without some crucial calls, some dropped balls and some ill-timed injuries the Lions could well have been heading home with a 3-0 series under their belts.
Dewi Morris, Will Greenwood, Ieuan Evans and Paul Wallace were part of Sky Sports' exclusive coverage of the tour and all believed that this was definitely a series that the Lions should have won.
"As far as the Lions brand goes we have found our soul again there is no question about that," said Ieuan Evans.
"However ultimately we are going to be judged on results and the overwhelming feeling I have is missed opportunities and that is the one feeling I will take back from this tour."
Lions to roar on
Will Greenwood who was part of the last Lions series win back in 1997 agreed that the 2009 tour has helped the Lions brand.
That second Test was probably the most brutal and thunderous test I have ever had the pleasure of watching - and not playing in thank goodness! They have put a little bit of spirit back into the Lions.
Quotes of the week
"It has been a wonderful tour, whatever people thought of the 2005 Lions tour, there is no doubt in my mind that the 2009 tour has reinvented the Lions tour, we will have a couple of years off but we are already excited about 2013 and taking on Australia."
"I would agree with that," added Dewi Morris. "That second Test was probably the most brutal and thunderous test I have ever had the pleasure of watching - and not playing in thank goodness! They have put a little bit of spirit back into the Lions."
Players who caught the eye
There were many brave performances as the Lions went toe to toe with the world Champions, with Welsh centre Jamie Roberts named as the British & Irish Lions' Player of the Series. However for our panel there were other players who caught the eye.
"For me it was Brian O' Driscoll," said Dewi when asked who his man of the series was.
"That first skirmish in the second test when he said bring it on said everything to me. Some of his thunderous tackles and his attitude said everything. He is just an outstanding player."
Paul Wallace, one of the Lions heroes in 1997, said that as South Africa won the series he would have to pick a Springbok.
"I have to go with Bakkies Botha," said Wallace. "He was vital in the first 15 minutes for South Africa by absolutely pulverising the Lions pack."
Will Greenwood agreed that his man of the series has to come from the winners, however also had high praise for Roberts too.
"On the Lions side well Jamie Roberts was the man for me. He was dropped by Wales for the big Six Nations game against Ireland but he came out here and we expected great things of him and he certainly grabbed his opportunity.
"But the player of the series has got to be a South African forward. Victor Matfield was lying on a tackle bag 30 minutes before the first Test looking like Lee van Cleef in a western. He said no two bit Northern hemisphere team is going to mess up my party," explained Greenwood.
"I would also mention John Smit because I think as the Lions were storming back into it in the first Test he came back onto the pitch and just steadied everything; his leadership can never be underestimated."
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Jonathon Wallace says...
The third test, while a deserved victory to a very good Lions team, wasn't important to the South Africans, and they aproached it as a development exercse for their fringe squad players. Clearly dropping two thirds of the team means that they were resting key players. A great series none-the-less, thouh I have to say I find the suggestion that the Lions should have won as a bit disrespectful. Credi where credit's due, the Boks won the series. That's it.
Posted 06:07 9th July 2009
Lee Wynd says...
@Gerry Wilsen - I love it, you win the series but you can't accept that the Lions were the better team in the final game and give credit where credit is due; most of us have already congratulated the Springboks for an excellent series win. For your information since you're clearly a bit dim, P. Divvy has been the 'Boks coach since January 2008, two months after the end of Jake White's tenure, so I don't get your claim that you've been without a coach since the World Cup. Additionally, the 'Boks made seven changes to their lineup, not 10, bringing in players which most of your countrymen had been crying out to be included from the first test. Need I also point out that the Lions made five changes, replacing both props and both centres which were arguably the areas where we were most dominant? Engage your brain before opening your mouth next time please.
Posted 16:16 8th July 2009
James Cox says...
As a South African I have to say that the Lions made everyone in SA sit up and take notice.They should probably have won the series but then again the Boks should have won in '97.Their supporters were outstanding and so was the team.I didn't like the weakened midweek sides that were put up against them - but the reason for that lies not with SA as such but with the whole issue of too much top level rugby.SANZAR have now gone and made it even worse with the S15 (ridiculous).The Lions supporters must also remember that we have a Tri-nations series coming up and we need our top players to be ready.Anyway - well done to the Lions!
Posted 07:46 8th July 2009
Sam Humphrey says...
As good as Jamie Roberts was, i don't think he was the man of the series. I think that has to go to Mike Phillips who epitomised everything that is good about the Lions and he never took a backward step. As far as the Boks are concerned I was more than impressed with the performances of Bismarck Du Plessis. I don't think there can be any doubt that he is the worlds best hooker.
Posted 20:27 7th July 2009
Carl Robberts says...
What a great game that was the second test and how brutal and with all the moaning about it ,the only problem was that idiot Berger and im a proud South A frican and that was a brutal game of rugby and thats how test rugby should be played because you are defending your countrys honuor and in every game of rugby you get off the ball incedents so thank you to the lions for a great tour and the supporters except the ones in the army uniforms from the boer was they are as bad as wearing nazi uniforms but i suppose you always get a few pratts around.
Posted 17:27 7th July 2009
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