Lions tour 2009
It was a case of so close, yet so far for the Lions as they failed to emulate the Class of 97. Tony Curtis looks back at the trip to South Africa.
Last Updated: 26/04/13 10:56am
With Ian McGeechan at the helm for a fourth time, hopes were high that the tourists could overcome the world champion Springboks.
They were left to look back on their missed chances and mistakes in the Tests, though, as the hosts clinched a 2-1 series win.
However while Tests results weren't ideal - the 10-match tour was massive success on and off the field, with the reputation of the Lions restored.
The Lions, captained by Paul O'Connell, finished with seven wins, a draw and two defeats during a pulsating tour.
They won all six matches in the build up to the first Test, including a 20-8 win over the newly-formed franchise the Southern Kings, who were playing in their inaugural match.
The emergence of Brian O'Driscoll and Jamie Roberts as the first-choice centre pairing was one of the success stories of the trip.
The first Test didn't quite go to plan for the tourists, though, and they found themselves 13-0 and then 26-7 down with just over 30 minutes left. They also struggled at scrum time, with the Lions repeatedly penalised and it was a day prop Phil Vickery will not remember with much fondness.
However the tourists, helped by changes up front, came roaring into the match. Tom Croft crossed for his second try of the match and then Mike Phillips crossed to cut the deficit to five - only for the Boks to cling on to claim a 26-21 win.
The second Test began in controversial fashion with Schalk Burger sent to the sin-bin for eye gouging Luke Fitzgerald in the opening minute - and the Lions took full advantage.
They led 10-0 and 19-8 only for the hosts to stage a recovery of their own this time around - with the Lions' cause hampered by tour-ending injuries to Adam Jones - after incident that later saw Bakkies Botha banned for two matches - Jamie Roberts, Gethin Jenkins and Brian O'Driscoll.
The Boks had led 25-22 only for Stephen Jones to level matters with two minutes left - with the Welshman weighing in with 20 points in total. However disaster struck as Ronan O'Gara was penalised chasing his own kick ahead - and Morne Steyn kicked the winning penalty from 53 metres.
The Lions may have been left battered, bruised and bloodied however they showed their character in the third Test as tries from Shane Williams (2) and Ugo Monye sealed a 28-9 victory - a record-equalling win over the Boks. Vickery also exorcised his scrum-time demons as he and the Lions pack were finally able to dominate.
Click here for a photo gallery of the 2009 Lions tour to South Africa