Very much a first game of a tour performance is the best you could describe the British & Irish Lions’ opening win of their 2009 tour of South Africa at an almost deserted Stadium in Rustenburg. For 60 minutes the unthinkable was on the cards an opening match loss against a side that will be the weakest opposition on tour. Trailing 25-13 to the Royal Bank XV, the Lions managed to claw their way out of a deep hole, thanks in part to their replacements, which included Cornishman Phil Vickery to finally run out 37-25 winners. Full back Lee Byrne was the pick of the Lions with skipper Paul O’Connell leading by example. Much work to do on the training paddock before their next match against the Golden Lions on Wednesday, they will need to shift up a few gears to win that one for sure!
The various County Championship competitions reached their finales yesterday with the northern counties completing a clean sweep. In the plate final Durham saw off Kent 29-14, whilst at Twickenham in the early kick-off 10 am, Cheshire beat Hertfordshire 30-22 in the Shield final before Lancashire won the Bill Beaumont Cup defeating Cornwall’s conquerors Gloucestershire 32-18 to win the title for an 19th time. Jeff Probyn writes an interesting article in this week’s Rugby Paper that the County game must be run purely for amateurs and that academy players from the professional teams should not be allowed to play. I think he is correct.
The main event in South Africa was of course the final of the Super 14 played in Pretoria, which saw the Blue Bulls thrash Waikato Chiefs 61-17, the gauntlet has been well and truely thrown down to the Lions with a performance like that!!
An England XV lost to the Barbarians at Twickenham 33-26 in an entertaing game whilst over in Canada, Wales defeated their hosts 32-23, with former Pirate Ed Fairhurst scoing one of Canada’s tries.
Next Saturday sees the final of the Top 14 French Championship with Clermont Auvergne playing their 10th final having lost the previous nine against Perpignan who last won the Bouclier de Brennus in 1955. Can USAP make it a Catalan double after Barcelona’s win the Champions League final last Wednesday?? It will be colourful for sure with eurosport 2 showing the game live in the UK from 8pm next Saturday. For the record Clermont beat defending champions Toulouse on Friday night 19-9 in Bordeaux, whilst the following day Perpignan saw off Stade Francais 25-21 in Lyon.
Finally good luck to Redruth’s Peter Joyce and Owen Hambly as they set off today to the Far East with England Counties for their matches in South Korea and Japan. I reckon Joycer would look some smart in one of those Samurai outfits!!!!