Giants in defeat
Will Greenwood said that the Lions did themselves proud despite their narrow loss in Pretoria.
Last Updated: 29/06/09 6:35am
Will Greenwood said that the Lions did themselves proud despite their heart breaking loss at Loftus Versveld.
Morne Steyn was South Africa's hero at Loftus Versveld as his last second penalty clinched the Springboks a 28-25 victory over the British and Irish Lions.
The replacement fly-half held his nerve at his home ground to boot the Springboks to a second Test victory that secures them the series.
The Lions had looked set to take the battle right down to the wire after Rob Kearney's early try helped give them an 18-6 advantage.
However, the Boks battled back in the manner expected of world champions, crossing in the second half through Bryan Habana and Jaque Fourie and set up a nail-biting final quarter for both sets of fans. It was the Springbok fans who were rejoicing at the end though and Greenwood - along with the rest of the Lions players and fans - were left devastated.
That was heartbreaking for the Lions because there were players out there today who had such immense performances," said Greenwood.
"It is so difficult in a team effort like that to pick names out but Simon Shaw was just sensational. He is a spectacular rugby player and the loss does not detract from his performance - he was unbelievable. When they needed to go to him in the lineout he was there; he was strong in the restarts; he carried, was superb in the turnovers too. We competed at every stage and at the heart of it were Simon Shaw and Tom Croft."
Greenwood did have high praise for the Springboks and said that they showed character to fight back from the deficit to clinch the series.
"What do you have to do to beat a Tri-Nations team?" asked Greenwood.
"You actually have to nail them down. We had so much possession, so many chances and ran them ragged in the first half. You use the word great too often in rugby but it is a great rugby team that can come back and do what they have done today. The Springboks had been so under the cosh and yet stayed in the game. They did what they had to do to stay in the game and gave their fly half the chance to win it for them. That is what great teams do.
"It came down to the wire though and it all came down to two guys. Jaque Fourie is just a master finisher - he is often a reserve but his try scoring record is unbelievable against the very best. And Morne Steyn - well the end was written for him."
Ellis Park redemption
With injuries taking their toll the Lions have a week to pick themselves up for the final Test at Ellis Park. And while the series maybe lost, Greenwood says that pride and the desire to win a Test game in South Africa will drive the Lions on.
"This Lions side deserves to come away with a win in a Test, said Greenwood.
"People may say that the Lions brand has been damaged but even at 2-0 down I think the brand has recovered enormously - the stadium was packed with supporters, we were in there fighting for a chance and we took it to the wire. The Lions is an entity that must exist. It is a sensational organisation that comes together once every four years.
"How do they bounce back for the third test? They have four key men in key positions in the treatment room. If they cannot get them right for the final test then the guys who take their positions - the Gordon D'Arcy's the Riki Flutey's - these guys have to step up and it will now be their honour to wear the shirt.
"|t is till the ultimate honour to wear the jersey and even if you are 2-0 down you have your own mini-series. The next team have the chance of winning a Test match in South Africa. So you pick yourself up, you attack training on Monday to get ready. There is plenty to build on today and there are still enough players who played this afternoon who you can stick and work around."