Sun, 26 Sep 2021

  • British & Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland praised his bench for helping them get over the line in the first Test against the Springboks at Cape Town Stadium on Saturday.
  • Maro Itoje and Courtney Lawes's efforts did not go unnoticed by Gatland, with the two English forwards impressing.
  • Gatland expects his side to get better after the thorough Test workout.

British & Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland praised the impact of his bench that allowed his team to overturn a 12-3 deficit to win the first Test against the Springboks 22-17 at the Cape Town Stadium on Saturday.

While the bulk of the points were scored by starters - hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie (try) and flyhalf Dan Biggar (four penalties and a conversion) - the manner in which the Lions error rate decreased and how they took control of the game was important for Gatland.

The Boks' "Bomb Squad" played a crucial role in their 2019 Rugby World Cup, but it was seemingly well countered by Gatland.

The win leaves them one game away from clinching their first Test series success in South Africa since 1997 and their third overall series win in the professional era.

"The impact of our bench was more significant than the impact of theirs and that was pleasing," Gatland said.

"There also was the energy from the rest of the staff and the players in the stands who were encouraging the players that was also immense."

England's tall and athletic forwards in Maro Itoje and Courtney Lawes played a crucial role for the visitors' success, especially in the second half when Ali Price's accurate kicking game had the Springboks in sixes and sevens.

"I thought he (Lawes) was brilliant and his lineout stuff was good. There were some great carries and footwork," Gatland said.

"Maro had one carry where he went in a bit too high, but he's worked incredibly hard and he's put in a really big shift."

While the Lions will gain the expected confidence from beating the Springboks, Gatland's charges were also about getting aspects of their rugby sorted out.

"It wasn't about us denting their ego, it was about us getting confidence from certain aspects of the game," Gatland added.

"I thought our lineout was excellent and the scrum, which was under pressure at the start of the game, we eased into it and got some scrum penalties at the end of the game

"They'll keep working hard to improve and as a group, they'll continue to get better in those areas, but we feel there's a lot more in us from a conditioning side.

"It looks like we're getting stronger and stronger for the 80 minutes and that's a really pleasing aspect of how hard we worked over the last six weeks."

Source: News24

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