End of the line
Tour insider Richard Anderson arrives home after the conclusion of an exhausting Lions tour.
By Richard Anderson
Last Updated: 06/07/09 4:50pm
Touchdown back home at last! It's been seven weeks since I left home - wherever that may be - seven long weeks of rugby, beer and good company.
The final Test was a good deal more intense than it had been cracked up to be, with Mike Phillips at the forefront of the no-nonsense needle dished out to the Boks.
He has a reputation for being a lively character off the field as well and the brief sight of him I grabbed in Durban after the first Test - with a girl on each arm and a beer in each hand, shouting "Let's be having it now boys" - did little to negate that reputation.
He does mean well. Asked after the Johannesburg clash what he would be doing that evening to see off the tour, he replied: "Go out and have a few I would imagine," and then paused.
"And hope I don't get into trouble!"
Spot of bother
One Lion did get into a spot of bother after the second Test in Pretoria, it emerged during the course of Saturday evening. He won't be named - naming and shaming is not our game and there'll be plenty of rugby chaps among you who could remember team-mates doing similar on tour.
But this chap is, apparently, the tour stripper; always the first one to get the shirt off and flex his pecs. It has apparently been a consistent theme of the tour.
On this particular evening, other items of clothing came off as well before he crowned the show with a passable impression of a fire hose off the balcony he was prancing on at the time.
Security personnel were presumably rugby players themselves, for rather than clearing out the ruck, as it were, they merely sidled up to the Lion and reminded him there was a room for that kind of thing and would he please go and get it.
Saturday was not short on entertainment before the match or during, but nothing compared to the afters. Security personnel surrounded the ground in bright yellow jackets to prevent people running onto the pitch, the players and presentation party trooped off... and then the fun began as, one by one, Lions fans attempted some for of re-enactment of Ugo Monye's length of the field intercept try.
To a huge roar from the remaining hordes, each fan - who faced prosecution and a night in the cells for his trouble - shot over the fence and hared away, as a line of yellow jackets set off across the field in perfect drift defence formation to try and stop them.
There would have been citings aplenty for the methods, frequently a sliding foot-first tackle, but perhaps the finest hour for the Lions fans was the man who tore down the left of the pitch, stepping, accelerating and hurdling the desperate attempts to stop him, but as he neared the 22 he found himself cordoned off.
That was the point at which most intruders stopped and resigned themselves to their fate but this chap, to the biggest cheer of the lot, put his head down and his foot forward and bumped one of the guards off in classic Jerry Collins fashion before making it to the try-line, doing a forward roll and jumping back into the stands and safety. Five points to you sir!
South African commentator Hugh Bladen, prone to some cracking gaffes as he over-excites himself, appeared to have briefly forgotten Shane Williams' non-Afrikaans roots during the match. As the little Welsh winger scampered away for two quick-fire tries, Bladen twice screamed out his name thus:
"Villiams is away, Villiams is going to score a second," he exclaimed. Is it possible South Africa would like to adopt the record-breaking Welshman? Zane Villiams perhaps?
And that was it. Most of us sidled up to the airport on Sunday feeling a good deal the worse for wear and longing for the creature comforts of home, but to all those people who helped us and the Lions enjoy such a successful tour, particularly our game and companionable South African hosts, an enormous thankyou. The next twelve years will not go fast enough (and we'll thrash you the next time as well).