Rugby

Martin: I wish we’d played like that earlier

  • In the pink: the Classic Lions celebrate their Plate Final win over the Classic Springboks at the North Field (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Allan Martin saw his Classic Lions side overwhelm South Africa 33-5 to win the World Rugby Classic Plate Final last night, but was left wondering what might have been.

Richie Carter scored a hat-trick of tries in the rain at the North Field, National Sports Centre, but Martin, the Lions coach, would have preferred if his team had played like that last Sunday, when a 10-7 defeat by France ruthlessly knocked them out of the main competition at the first hurdle.

“I wish we did that at the beginning of the week,” Martin said. “We’d have gone through then and maybe achieved what we wanted to achieve.

“It can always happen in the first game, because you’re a scratch side, maybe things are not as you’d want them to be. But as the tournament goes on everybody becomes a better side and I think the tournament over the years has got tougher. The weaker sides have got better, so there’s not a lot of difference between the sides.”

The Lions were dominant from the outset and almost conceded very early after a break from Sean Lamont, but it was not long before Carter received quick ball impressively in the wind and rain down the left, dummied a pass to the left wing and touched down easily.

Gareth King then made a great break and Carter, the former Wales Sevens full back, scored what was almost a carbon copy of his first try, but managed to touch down under the posts this time and Ceri Sweeney, the fly half who won 35 caps for Wales, converted.

Carter would complete his hat-trick in the second half, going in down the right corner this time.

“It’s the way you want to play, but you can’t always achieve it,” Martin said of his team’s performance. “We’re in our third game and the boys are gelling and starting to work things out and know the angles they want to run on.

“When we played against the French we hadn’t worked anything out, so anything can happen and the French are a tough side to play. They’re always hard, always good tacklers, so we came unstuck a bit.”

Martin also praised Lamont, who won 105 caps for Scotland, as his unsung hero.

“Sean Lamont put in 110 per cent,” he said. “He was very difficult to bring down and he showed his class. It’s a tribute to the standard of players on the field. The ball was very greasy and, yes, there were mistakes, but considering the conditions, it’s acceptable.”

The playing standard is getting better and better in Bermuda, Martin said.

“It’s getting tougher every year,” he added. “We have to bring good players and we have to bring good referees. The standard of the tournament certainly depends on the referees. Good refereeing means good play.”