Lions looking for the Bentley ‘X-Factor’

Rob Howley is looking to invoke the spirit of 1997 when the British & Irish Lions head to Coaca Cola Park to face the Golden Lions on Wednesday night. [more]

Lions looking for the Bentley ‘X-Factor’

Rob Howley is looking to invoke the spirit of 1997 when the British & Irish Lions head to Coaca Cola Park to face the Golden Lions on Wednesday night.

Twelve years ago the Lions had to bounce back from a 35-30 defeat against Northern Transvaal to get their tour back on track. 

Losing 9-3 at half-time in Johannesburg, second-half tries from Austin Healey and a belter from John Bentley earned the tourists’ a 20-14 win. After that, they didn’t lose a game until the last Test, by which time the series had been clinched. 

“It is going to be a considerable step-up for us from the first game and we know the Golden Lions have a lot of good players,” said Howley. 

“They are a strong outfit who, even though they didn’t enjoy a great Super 14, were capable of beating the Brumbies and Highlanders. We will also be playing at one of the great rugby stadiums in the game. 

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“The try by John Bentley against the Gauteng Lions in 1997 was crucial for us in that game and for the tour as a whole. We had just come off a defeat in Pretoria and we needed to win. 

“Everyone shared the responsibility and we got back on track with a great win. What  we are looking for on Wednesday is the X-factor to help us get over some of the disappointment we are feeling after Saturday.” 

Howley confessed that a number of the players who played in the opening 37-25 victory over the Royal XV were upset at the performance, but he was happy at the way the side fought back in the closing stages. 

“There were some positives from the game and there was a great relief at winning. When a win comes along like that you take it,” said Howley. 

“The scrum and line-out were good, but there are lots of other areas we need to work on – ball retention, the tackle area and turn-overs. Our accuracy of passing and decision making were also disappointing at times. 

“But the players will learn from it and I’m sure we will be in better shape this week. The game on Saturday was our fifth day since arriving. 

“In terms of altitude you either come in and play on the first day or reap the benefit on the eighth day. Wednesday will be our eighth day and, from a physical point of view, the players’ bodies should be in a better position to confront the altitude problems. 

“We also need to remind ourselves that we won on Saturday. The players were forced to dig deep and they did just that. 

“Ian McGeechan and Gerald Davies had spoken about the character and quality of the players in the build up to the game and they showed those qualities in the closing 12 minutes. When the Royal XV scored that try 12 minutes from the end we were probably looking at a loss. 

“Paul O’Connell told the players they just had to keep the ball, show some composure and show some talent. Lee Byrne’s try was a fantastic individual effort of which he can feel very proud of – it got us back into the game. 

“For me, those closing 12 minutes showed the true Lions spirit – real resilience when your backs are against the wall. I didn’t expect to see us 12 points down with only as many minutes to play and the resilience they showed in battle revealed the ingredients that are required to be a 2009 Lion.”

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