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power play Springboks bite back against the Lions to set up thrilling series decider

South Africa 27 Lions 9

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Eben Etzebeth of South Africa and British & Irish Lions captain Alun Wyn Jones confront each other during the 2nd Test between South Africa and the British & Irish Lions. (Photo by EJ Langner/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

Eben Etzebeth of South Africa and British & Irish Lions captain Alun Wyn Jones confront each other during the 2nd Test between South Africa and the British & Irish Lions. (Photo by EJ Langner/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

Eben Etzebeth of South Africa and British & Irish Lions captain Alun Wyn Jones confront each other during the 2nd Test between South Africa and the British & Irish Lions. (Photo by EJ Langner/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

IF YOU can bear it, the Lions series will go to a decider in Cape Town next weekend.

After a build-up dominated South Africa’s director of rugby Rassie Erasmus’s very public sense of injustice at a litany of first-Test incidents, the world champions were rabid in an ugly first-half and were lucky to escape with more than one yellow card.

After the break they reprised their World Cup final game-plan to decimate the tourists, winning the half 21-0 to wrest control of the series.

The Lions now have a major job on their hands to wrest back any sense of momentum after they were emasculated in contact and wiped out in the air. All three of their back three will be blessed to be back for the third Test next Saturday.

As they make their way back to their base 90 minutes from Cape Town, the tourists will ponder how they were the width of Siya Kolisi’s arm away from going in seven points up. The captain brilliantly denied Robbie Henshaw a potentially game-changing try that seemed a distant memory by the end.

Warren Gatland will wonder what impact a whole week dominated by the Springbok camp heaping pressure on the match officials had on the performance of Ben O’Keeffe who opted for leniency in a string decisions in a first-half that lasted more than an hour.

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Makazole Mapimpi of South Africa on his way to the tryline during the 2nd Test between South Africa and the British & Irish Lions. (Photo by EJ Langner/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

Makazole Mapimpi of South Africa on his way to the tryline during the 2nd Test between South Africa and the British & Irish Lions. (Photo by EJ Langner/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

Makazole Mapimpi of South Africa on his way to the tryline during the 2nd Test between South Africa and the British & Irish Lions. (Photo by EJ Langner/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

Wingers Duhan van der Merwe and Kolbe were sin-binned, but both could have been sent off for good and it was a miracle that they were the only players who spent time off the field as they could have been joined by a host of players who let the build-up get to them.

There were offenders on both sides, van der Merwe should have been punished for a tip-tackle on Pieter-Steph du Toit that ultimately led to the 2019 world player of the year going off injured, while Faf de Klerk somehow escaped any punishment for a no-arms hit on Conor Murray who was at the centre of everything.

It finished 9-6 with Handre Pollard’s one miss from three the reason the ‘Boks were behind, with the Lions going closest to a try when Robbie Henshaw fielded Murray’s clever chip only for Siya Kolisi to somehow deny him by getting an arm under the ball.

The stop-start nature of a game that frequently blew up into set-tos and scrums that took too long to set meant neither side could be overly happy going in at the break, but the Lions could reflect on their edge in the physical battle, a domination of territory and possession and a more favourable penalty count.

With du Toit off the pitch, they were dominant in the air and they were having joy with their kicking game but three points is a marginal lead and they knew they’d have to increase the tempo after the break.

The introduction of Lood de Jager was key as he turned the tide up front and, when the Tadhg Furlong was punished for a slip at the scrum and Stuart Hogg failed to deal with Pollard’s high ball, the world champions went for the jugular and their out-half’s clever kick was on the money for Makazola Mapimpi to score.

Pollard missed the conversion and Jasper Wiesse spilled the restart, the Lions forced a penalty but Biggar’s effort hit the upright with his attempt to nudge his side back in front.

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Both teams rolled their bench but after they dominated the air last week the Lions back three began to wilt and their mistakes kept giving the world champions windows into the game.

Anthony Watson took Pollard out in the air to allow them strike again.

When Owen Farrell came in from the side of a dominant maul, de Klerk chipped in behind and Lukanyo Am just about did enough to convince the officials he’d grounded the ball and when the out-half converted the ‘Boks had daylight on the scoreboard.

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Lukhanyo Am of South Africa scores a try  during the 2nd Test between South Africa and the British & Irish Lions at FNB Stadium on July 31, 2021 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by EJ Langner/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

Lukhanyo Am of South Africa scores a try during the 2nd Test between South Africa and the British & Irish Lions at FNB Stadium on July 31, 2021 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by EJ Langner/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

Lukhanyo Am of South Africa scores a try during the 2nd Test between South Africa and the British & Irish Lions at FNB Stadium on July 31, 2021 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by EJ Langner/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

That made the Lions desperate, and their discipline went. Silly concessions from Rory Sutherland and Maro Itoje – who was blessed the officials didn’t look at a knee-drop on Damian de Allende – a scrum collapse handed Pollard another chance to extend the lead to 21-9.

Another Watson spill handed the ‘Boks a scrum, they won a penalty and Pollard edged his side further in front. The out-half closed it out in injury-time.

It’s 1-1, but the home side have all the momentum.

Scorers: South Africa M Mapimpi, L Am try each, H Pollard 5 pens, 1 con; Lions: D Biggar 3 pens;

SOUTH AFRICA – W le Roux; C Kolbe, L Am, D de Allende, M Mapimpi (D Willemse 68); H Pollard, F de Klerk (H Jantjes 64); S Kitschoff (T Nkayane 60), B Mbonambi (M Marx 57), F Malherbe (V Koch 57); E Etzebeth, F Mostert; S Kolisi (capt) (M van Staden 73), J Weisse (L de Jager 56), PS du Toit (K Smith 22).

LIONS – S Hogg; A Watson, C Harris (E Daly 62), R Henshaw, D van der Merwe; D Biggar (O Farrell 58), C Murray (A Price 58); M Vunipola (R Sutherland 57), L Cowan-Dickie (K Owens 57), T Furlong (K Sinckler 57); AW Jones (capt), M Itoje; C Lawes (T Beirne 72), J Conan (T Faletau 60), T Curry.

Ref: B O’Keeffe (New Zealand)

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