Lions ‘unseen moments as fans left in anger and Liam Williams’ conversations turn out to be revealing


The Lions’ 28-10 win over Japan at Murrayfield grabbed the headlines, but what about the things not everyone got to see?

Simon Thomas inside the stadium to witness a strange day.

You can read how we rated each of the Lions players here.

Angry fans

There were plenty of contenders for the day’s strongest cheer at Murrayfield, with the Lions scoring four tries in their 28-10 win over Japan.

But there was no contest when it came to the strongest boo.

This followed the announcement, just before half-time, of the closing of the bars.

The spectators inside the stadium expressed their feelings very clearly with a resounding chorus of disapproval.

It was all about booing without alcohol.

Walking to the press box before the match, we noticed how long the lines lasted outside the bars in the lobby below.

There was clearly a huge demand that they were struggling to keep up with.

Then, when it was announced that the bars were closing, the rumor started to spread like wildfire that the stadium was running out of beer.

Eventually, the SRU released a statement, insisting it wasn’t and it was due to social distancing.

He said: “Due to unprecedented pre-match sales, the decision was made not to open bars at halftime, given the limited availability of stock around the stadium.

“This was to ensure that previously agreed social distancing guidelines could be maintained and avoid overcrowding. In accordance with the match agreement, the bars were to be closed from the end of half-time.

“There was no shortage of beer in the stadium and all decisions were made with crowd safety and social distancing in mind.”

So this is it.

Either way, it left many disgruntled supporters wondering why the beer farm couldn’t cope when there were only 16,000 people in a 67,000-seat stadium.

This was not the only criticism leveled at SRU.

Times sports reporter Jessica Hayden was there as a supporter and was not impressed with the arrangements.

“Incredibly lucky to be here and not take it for granted, but a lot of fans are upset here,” she tweeted.

“They got everyone in line to enter the stadium at a set time, so no social distancing, rather than letting people in.

“There was only one bar, such a crazy queue, and they didn’t get a license for the milking, so they only sold cans and then ran out 20 minutes after the game starts.

“We all have to sit away from family / friends, but next to strangers and to be honest a lot of fans are not wearing their masks.”

Earlier, she had tweeted: “Social distancing is a joke. I’m three seats away from my boyfriend and dad on either side, who I’ve traveled with and live with, but I have someone I don’t know in front of me, unless one metre.

There were also issues at the press gantry, where power and wi-fi were repeatedly cut.

Pretty much the busiest man up there was the hard-pressed engineer trying to get it to work.

So not the best day in SRU, all in all.

The moment you knew it was over for Alun Wyn

The moment I saw Alun Wyn Jones lying on the deck, the alarm bells started ringing.

He is a man who does not fall easily and certainly does not stay unless he is properly injured.

But it was when he leaned over with his head down that I really started to fear the worst.

Body language was screaming that he was in real trouble.

Then came the signal from one of the doctors who had rushed to his aid, both arms in the air, suggesting that it was serious.

At that moment, a low moan rumbled across the floor. People knew the score.

Alun Wyn certainly knew it from the grim look on his face as he left the field with his left arm supported by a medic.

The standing ovation he received from the crowd when he left speaks volumes about the respect he is held and the empathy he feels for his situation.

Initially, speculation was that it was a wrist issue, but then, at halftime, the Lions confirmed it was a shoulder injury.

During the second half you could see Jones sitting down with the rest of the non-playing team near the sideline.

He didn’t have a scarf, so hopes were briefly raised.

But, as he left his seat at the end of the match, it was noticed that he had put his left hand in his jacket pocket.

Then he went downstairs to speak to referee Pascal Gauzère and the Lions players.

Again, the body language said it all. You have just had the feeling that messages of consolation are being conveyed to him.

That fear was confirmed as soon as Warren Gatland began his post-game press conference, with the Kiwi revealing Jones had dislocated his shoulder.

You could tell from his demeanor that Gatland felt too much for the man he had chosen to be his tour captain, a man who will not be going to South Africa anymore.

This is devastating news and it has left a cloud hanging over the entire occasion.

Choose your Lions Test XV

You can’t beat the fans

On a positive note, it was of course great to meet the fans again.

This is my first time covering a match with supporters inside a pitch from England v Wales at Twickenham in March 2020.

With a capacity capped at 16,000, it wasn’t a sea of ​​red, but rather red dots on a blue sea of ​​seats.

But despite the limited number, the supporters really made their voices heard.

At the time of the Lions 23 announcement, the loudest cheers were reserved for the three Scots on duty, followed by the first choir of “Lions, Lions”.

Having been to New Zealand four years ago and hearing this echo around the grounds of Wellington, Auckland and Christchurch et al, it was scary to relive it, especially after the empty stadiums we have grown used to over the past 16 month.

The roar when the men in red came out running was even more of a hair on the back of his neck.

After all the uncertainties and doubts, the time had come. The 2021 Lions were up and running and fans were there to share it.

Invisible work

After covering rugby matches on TV for the past year or so, there were other elements of the live experience that really struck me.

One was the warm-up that the players go through.

The Lions were on the pitch for almost an hour before kick-off and it reminded you how thorough and professional this game has become.

You had the kickers, Dan Biggar, Owen Farrell and Conor Murray training assiduously under Neil Jenkins tutelage, shooting on goal from all angles, as well as working on their tactile sights, up and down and box kick.

Then you saw forwards coach Robin McBryde lifting a long pole with a net at the end for his hookers to practice on target.

You’ve had the stretching sessions and the shuttle runs, all overseen by fitness trainer Paul “Bobby” Stridgeon, a man with the level of enthusiasm of Steve Black.

Then come the passing exercises and the practice of the alignment, before the intensity increases, first with the tackle bags then full contact, the non-starters constituting the opposition.

The Lions were there much longer than the Japanese and that was a first indication that nothing will be left to chance when it comes to the preparation of this tour.

Liam Williams monitoring

Finally, a word on Liam Williams.

I paid him special attention in the first half and it was really obvious how much of a senior character he has become.

He was keen to get around his teammates very early on, to encourage them, to type in the hand with his Irish crosses and to share a word with his wingers Josh Adams and Duane van der Merwe.

The Scarlets full-back also made his voice heard as he passed the moves, as he stood there with a big hug for Adams as the Cardiff speedster crossed for the game’s first try.

You just have the feeling that Sanjay is going to be a key man over the next few months.

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