South Africa dominate Lions in second half to level series

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South Africa centre Lukhanyo Am (C) is tackled by British and Irish Lions loose forward Tom Curry (L) and centre Robbie Henshaw (R) during the second Test in Cape Town on Saturday
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South Africa overcame the loss of injured star forward Pieter-Steph du Toit on Saturday to score 21 unanswered second-half points and beat the British and Irish Lions 27-9 to level the series ahead of next weekend's final Test.

The dominance of the Springboks after half-time yielded tries from winger Makazole Mapimpi and centre Lukhanyo Am and the tourists finished a well-beaten team before the third Test and series decider, also in Cape Town.

Fly-half Handre Pollard scored the rest of the home points from a conversion and five penalties while rival playmaker Dan Biggar slotted three penalties for the Lions.

"This is special. It has been a tough week -- the toughest week I have ever had to face," said South Africa skipper and flanker Siya Kolisi.

"I am grateful to the management and coaches we have for making us focus on the mistakes we made (last weekend). We fight together as a team and it came through for us.

"We did not worry about mistakes and the injuries, we just gave 100 percent. We will enjoy this but the work is not done. It is all or nothing next week.

"You have got to trust in the system, trust in the guys around you. We have been in a bubble but we are thinking of the (South African) people. There is one more week and we will give it everything."

Reigning World Rugby Player of the Year Du Toit was forced to leave the field after 22 minutes following an earlier late tackle by South Africa-born Lions winger Duhan van der Merwe.

- Superbly refereed -

Van der Merwe and Springboks counterpart Cheslin Kolbe were yellow-carded within two minutes of each other midway through the opening half of a match superbly refereed by New Zealander Ben O'Keeffe.

The first Test had been riddled with controversial decisions and Australian referee Nic Berry and South African TV match official Marius Jonker came under heavy post-match fire.

As was the case in first Test last weekend, won 22-17 by the tourists, it was a tale of two halves at a spectator-less Cape Town Stadium due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Lions led 9-6 at half-time and the advantage would have been greater had Kolisi not got an arm under the ball to prevent Lions centre Robbie Henshaw scoring after he crossed the tryline.

An astonishingly long first half lasted 64 minutes -- 24 minutes more than it should have -- owing to injuries, a mini brawl and video checks of various incidents.

After 45 minutes, Mapimpi snatched a Pollard cross-kick, cut inside and evaded several tackles to score and give the hosts a lead they never surrendered.

Am struck just past the hour mark, getting first to a grubber kick from scrum-half Faf de Klerk just before the ball crossed the dead-ball line.

Pollard converted for an 18-9 advantage and then kicked three penalties against opponents who had nothing to offer as an attacking force in the closing stages.

Lions skipper and lock Alun Wyn Jones said: "There was a momentum shift in the second half in South Africa's favour. The aerial battle went against us in the second half and so did the breakdowns.

"We did not want to take it to a third week but we will have to. We put ourselves under pressure in the second half."

South Africa will create history if they triumph again next Saturday as neither they nor the Lions have won a series between them having lost the first Test.


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