Dan Biggar kicked The British & Irish Lions to victory after a Luke Cowan-Dickie try sparked a remarkable second-half comeback in the first Test of the Castle Lager Lions Series.
Warren Gatland’s side had struggled in the first half and went in 12-3 down at the break after Handre Pollard kicked four penalties on the occasion of his 50th cap.
But Gatland worked his magic at the interval as his side prevailed 19-5 in the second period, spurred on by sensational English forward duo Maro Itoje and Courtney Lawes, to win 22-17 in Cape Town.
Cowan-Dickie dotted down off the back of a rolling maul just three minutes into the second half before a Faf de Klerk try was negated by a further 11 points from Biggar’s boot and a 78th minute Owen Farrell penalty.
The intensity lived up to expectations in the first half as the business end of the Tour got underway but neither side was able to cross the whitewash.
Pollard made no mistake from the tee in the first 40 but Biggar missed one chance while long-range specialist Elliot Daly’s mammoth 55-metre effort came up just short.
Daly was penalised for two of Pollard’s penalties with Tom Curry also reprimanded for a late tackle on Sale Sharks clubmate De Klerk.
Robbie Henshaw had the most threatening clean break of the opening stanza just before the interval but lost control of the ball after a rampaging run took him into the Springboks’ 22.
The South Africans unleashed the ‘Bomb Squad’ by changing their whole front row at half-time but it was Cowan-Dickie, who had seen a few lineouts go awry in the first half, that made the perfect start after the break by putting the finishing touch on an unstoppable maul to wrestle back momentum for the men in red.
Biggar made no mistake with the conversion, fully justifying Alun Wyn Jones’ call to go to the corner from a penalty.
Willie le Roux thought he had hit straight back but TMO Marius Jonker ruled that he was in front of Lukhanyo Am when the centre kicked through.
But the home side were not to be denied for too long as De Klerk dotted down after Pieter-Steph Du Toit had glided through the Lions defence having scooped up a loose pass and then was not adjudged to have knocked on.
Crucially, Pollard pulled his conversion past the wrong side of the uprights from out wide to ensure the match was still a one-score game at 17-10.
Biggar then kicked three penalties in ten minutes, the last taking the Lions into the lead for the very first time 62 minutes into the match.
Farrell, with Biggar not returning from his HIA, nervelessly slotted a penalty with barely 90 seconds left on the clock to ensure the Springboks would need a try to win.
And they duly reclaimed the kick-off and threatened to break the tourists’ hearts only for player of the match Itoje to steal the ball with the clock in the red before Stuart Hogg booted it into the stands to take a 1-0 lead into next week’s second Test.