The British & Irish Lions ran in eight tries during an impressive victory over the Sigma Lions but Hamish Watson was just as chuffed with the defence, as they limited their opponents to 14 points.
Josh Adams’ four tries may have stolen the headlines but their resilience was also impressive as, aside from Vincent Tshituka and Rabz Maxwane scores either side of half-time, the Lions kept their South African opponents quiet during the 56-14 triumph.
That included a particularly notable spell in the first half where the hosts spent almost ten minutes in the Lions 22, only for the tourists to hold firm as tigerish tackling, breakdown disruption and eventually Watson himself forcing a turnover repelled the threat.
Another key moment saw skipper Stuart Hogg produce a brilliant, last-ditch covering tackle after chasing down Sbusiso Sangweni, who looked set for a 70-metre breakaway score.
Lions defence coach Steve Tandy has been implementing his aggressive blitz defence that also saw the tourists dominate the collision and Watson claims the hard work on the training ground is paying off.
“It’s another week in training, another week of Steve [Tandy] and the other coaches implementing their strategy – it’s players getting used to that,” said Watson of the defensive display.
“I thought our defence in our own 22 in the first half especially was really good and that period where we kept them out when they were attacking for a ten-minute period was great and stands us in good stead moving forward.
“Hoggy [Stuart Hogg] was really good tonight as well – he’s been the Scotland captain for the last few years and has done really well.
“He’s got a lot of other leaders around him, which probably helped him as well, having so many experienced players out there.
“That standout moment where he tracked back and made that tackle was a big turning point in the game. Amazing work-rate by him.
“There’s a lot to work on, it was a bit scrappy at times and they were a big physical team, I thought there were parts of our game that we were happy with but there was lots to work on as well.”
On his Lions debut, Watson was immense, as the Scottish back-rower scored an early try, assisted another and was a constant force both at the breakdown and with ball in hand.
Two of the other debutants in the starting XV, Chris Harris and Louis Rees-Zammit, combined for the first try of the match after just three minutes and Watson admits he was excited to finally pull on the famous red jersey.
“It’s just great to finally be here, I think the Tour was up in the air for a few months so it’s just great for the boys to get their first caps,” he added.
“I just really enjoyed it, it’s great to play with players I’ve never played with before.
“It was a lot of the boys’ first run out for the Lions, lots of boys playing with people they’ve never played with, so it was never going to be perfect.
“But it was awesome for me to get my first win for the Lions and a good performance from the team. A lot to work on but a team heading in the right direction with four warm-up games to go.”