The British and Irish Lions player is the scapegoat for the Boks series defeat

Rugby games can pivot on the smallest of moments and the British and Irish Lions tours are no different. In 2009, Irish fly-half Ronan O’Gara was the scapegoat. In the second Test, O’Gara was forced off the road by winger Jacques Fourie for the Springboks’ 73rd-minute try in Pretoria which put them ahead, only for team-mate Stephen Jones to equalize. 25-25 in the 78th minute.

A fateful kick and recovery attempts with thirty seconds on the clock then saw the then Munster player slam into airborne scrum-half Fourie du Preez. Morne Steyn scored the penalty and the Boks won the series with one game to spare.

Twelve years later and the 2021 tour now seems to have its own official scapegoat, at least according to the excellent two halves documentary. The series, which aired this week on ITV, shed light on a tour that almost never happened and gave some insight into what management and players thought of the show, with the benefit of months of hindsight. .

Freddie Burns – Leicester’s drop-goal hero | Download RugbyPass | Episode 39

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Freddie Burns – Leicester’s drop-goal hero | Download RugbyPass | Episode 39

What emerged was that Liam Williams’ failure to pass Josh Adams in the third Test was seen by Gatland – and the player himself – as the mistake that tipped the series in favor of the Springboks.

Just before half-time, with the Lions already leading 10-3, Williams had the opportunity to put fellow Welshman Josh Adams clearing the right sideline and potentially putting the Lions out of sight. Adams would have bet on himself to beat Willie le Roux on the Springbok try line after scoring eight tries in four games on the circuit. Instead, Williams hesitated for a split second and Springbok fly-half Handre Pollard threw in a tackle.

“You have to keep your cool, keep your cool, you have to be precise, it’s going to come down to a kick or a call,” Gatland said of the incident. “He [Williams] pass that ball, Josh scores. i don’t think they [South Africa] come back from this. »

A clearly emotional Williams was just as hard on himself. “I don’t even know why I didn’t pass it,” he sighed. The Scarlets player, who joins Cardiff for the 2022/23 season, was asked if he had spoken to anyone about the pass, one of the final scenes in the documentary.

“I haven’t told anyone about it. [to nobody at all]. I cried when I got home. That’s how it is,” said Williams, whose voice was clearly shaking. “It’s pretty tough.”

It seems incredibly harsh to blame Williams for the mistake, especially as Tom Curry gave away a penalty minutes later as the Lions were about to rumble for a maul try on a lineout. Perhaps rightly so, O’Gara shared his views on Williams’ misstep during the tour as a pundit and it was clear he was sensitive to the Welshman’s plight.

“It’s brutal, it’s unforgiving, at this level of the sport because the higher you go you know the margins get smaller and smaller. There are tiny little things but I agree with Ian ( McGeechan) about the boys in red going to suffer because there were probably two chances to win the series.

“The first test they did and they got their foot on their throat within 40 seconds of the second test but didn’t kill South Africa. And you look today and that’s probably due to Liam Williams not hitting Josh Adams outside of him to score.These decisions cost you.

“In the rugby cup, it is imperative to take your points. It’s easy when you’re on the couch, but it’s not easy when your heart rate is increasing by about 200 beats per minute. But that’s the calm. »

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Charles P. Patton