South Africa 27-9 British and Irish Lions: Springboks level series as Cheslin Kolbe avoids red card
A crazy first half lasted 64 minutes as Cheslin Kolbe was fortunate to avoid a red card for taking Conor Murray out in the air; Kolbe was sin-binned, as was Duhan van der Merwe for tripping; Makazole Mapimpi and Lukhanyo Am scored second-half tries, from which the Lions could not recover
By Michael Cantillon
Last Updated: 01/08/21 7:17am
South Africa levelled their three-Test series vs the British and Irish Lions in Cape Town on Saturday courtesy of a 27-9 victory, as Springboks wing Cheslin Kolbe was very fortunate to avoid a red card.
In an extraordinary 64-minute first half, Dan Biggar and Handre Pollard traded penalties to leave things 9-6 to the Lions at half-time, while Lions wing Duhan van der Merwe and South Africa's Kolbe were both sin-binned - the latter avoiding a red card for taking Conor Murray out in the air.
The second half saw the Boks notch tries through wing Makazole Mapimpi and centre Lukhanyo Am - the second of which followed a lengthy TMO review which seemed to suggest there was a lack of control in the grounding.
A flurry of penalties against the Lions saw South Africa take a firm grip of the closing stages, with Pollard adding three penalties into the final 10 minutes to create an unassailable lead.
South Africa hit the front as early as the fifth minute, when Pollard bisected the uprights off the tee after the Lions' defensive line were caught offside within their own 22.
The Lions responded by forcing a Willie le Roux knock on within the Boks 22 after a strong kick-chase off a Biggar Garryowen, and from the resultant five-metre scrum the tourists earned a penalty when Jasper Wiese tackled with no arms, allowing Biggar to level the Test from close-range.
Biggar struck his second penalty of the game in the 17th minute to edge the Lions 6-3 in front, after the Springboks were pinged for offside.
After a successful South Africa counter-ruck moments later, Pollard had a golden chance to square the game up again after Lions scrum-half Murray was penalised for offside, but the Boks fly-half hooked the straightforward effort wide.
On 22 minutes, the hosts lost a key man as flanker and 2019 World Player of the Year Pieter-Steph du Toit limped off with a shoulder complaint.
Within a minute the Lions were reduced to 14 men, however, as wing Van der Merwe was sin-binned after a TMO review for tripping Kolbe.
In the 25th minute, Kolbe was lucky to avoid a red card for taking Murray out in the air, after the Irishman landed on his face, but referee Ben O'Keeffe was content to award a yellow.
South Africa hooker Bongi Mbonambi was also perhaps fortunate to avoid a yellow card for charging into the back of Biggar in the melee that followed.
Pollard soon levelled the contest with a kick from distance on the angle after wing Mapimpi won a breakdown turnover.
The Lions turned down a potential shot at goal in their next meaningful attack, with Biggar kicking into the corner as Van der Merwe arrived back onto the pitch from his yellow card.
Franco Mostert stole the lineout brilliantly, but Maro Itoje forced Eben Etzebeth back over the try-line to earn the Lions a five-metre attacking scrum, from which the Lions thought they had scored the opening try through Henshaw. On TMO review, the ball was ruled lost forward after Siya Kolisi looked to hold it up.
Within the same phase of play, South Africa scrum-half Faf de Klerk had appeared to catch Murray with a high tackle, but very little time was spent reviewing it with the TMO.
The Lions had attacked on penalty advantage, and so play went back for Biggar to tap over a kick for a 9-6 lead - which is how it remained at the break, after an exceptionally lengthy and event-filled first half.
Five minutes into the second half, the Springboks scored the first try of the match as Mapimpi latched on to an inch-perfect Pollard kick-pass before beating Stuart Hogg and sprinting over.
Pollard missed the conversion, however, leaving the Boks' lead at two points, before Biggar hit the post with a penalty effort for the lead on the angle moments after.
The next scoring sequence saw South Africa notch their second try past the hour mark to move 18-9 ahead, with centre Am racing through to ground the bouncing ball - though replays seemed to suggest he was not in control.
A succession of penalties at the set-piece against the Lions, in addition to a number of aerial knock-ons, saw the Boks take a stranglehold of proceedings, as Pollard confirmed victory with a steady boot.