British and Irish Lions 26 Western Province 23
A late penalty from James Hook saw The British & Irish Lions nick a 26-23 win over Western Province at a blustery Newlands on Saturday.
The tourists had found themselves 9-6 down after a scrappy opening quarter in which both sides struggled to come to terms with the inclement weather conditions, but The Lions took command of the game with two tries in the space of seven first-half minutes from their in-form wingers, Tommy Bowe and Ugo Monye.
The excellent goal-kicking of Willem de Waal kept Western Province in touch after the interval but The Lions looked poised to pull clear once more when Martyn Williams touched down in the 56th minute.
The Western Province kept coming, though, and Joe Pietersen leveled the game at 23 points apiece when he slid over shortly after the hour mark.
The final quarter swayed one way and then the other before Hook clinched victory for The Lions with a sublime 45-metre penalty with three minutes to play.
The players' knew the importance of this fixture, it being The Lions' penultimate game before their first meeting with The Springboks, in Durban in seven days' time. It was, as Martyn Williams had quite rightly described it earlier in the week, as the 'final trial match'. Big performances were required, so it must have been with no small amount of disappointment that The Lions ran out onto the pitch for their warm-up at Newlands and were greeted by a cold, swirling wind and biting rain.
These were not conditions that were likely to lend themselves to running rugby.
Hardly surprising, then, that the early exchanges were characterised by a high balls and handling errors. It was dreadful stuff, truth be told.
However, as the conditions improved, so did the standard of play - dramatically.
Western Province fly-half de Waal opened the scoring with a penalty only to see Jones reply with two of his own to nudge the Lions ahead.
The home side were quite enjoying the battle, though, and their growing confidence was personified by de Waal, who restored parity with a majestic 35-metre drop goal.
Their belief that the upset was on only further strengthened by that score, The Western Province then decided to kick for the line rather than go for goal when awarded a second penalty, this time inside The Lions 22.
A succession of brave drives for the line followed, but seeing that the Lions defence, which has been a real plus point on the Tour so far, was not for the breaching, they settled for another drop goal, through their entertainingly erratic full-back, Pietersen.
The home fans had come to life by this point, but their enthusiasm was quickly dampened - and not by the rainfall but by two fine Lions tries.
Unsurprisingly, Tommy Bowe, the player of the Tour thus far, played a key role in both.
He scored the first, taking his personal try tally to four in three appearances. It was a score which had its origins in a superb charge forward from Andy Powell and a lovely show of hands from Martyn Williams.
Harry Ellis, Stephen Jones and Rob Kearney kept the momentum of a fine move going with some neat passing before Bowe spun his way past one tackler and rolled himself over another to score in the right corner.
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