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Befuddled Lions to talk with refs after Springboks defeat

THE British and Irish Lions have identified how they can beat South Africa next weekend and keep their series alive.

It's handling the referees that's a bigger problem.

Baffled by decisions they believe helped the Springboks to a 26-21 victory at Kings Park on Saturday, the Lions will this week talk to referees to find out why prop forward Phil Vickery, one of the most experience front rows in the game, continually got whistled by New Zealand referee Bryce Lawrence and gave Boks flyhalf Ruan Pienaar repeated kicks at goal.

South Africa opened up a 26-7 lead by the 47th minute which, in the end, proved big enough to stave off a spirited and inspired Lions fightback.

The Lions took Vickery off, partly because he was being outshoved by Tendai "Beast" Mtawarira and partly because referee Lawrence was penalizing him in what appeared yet another case of interpretation of the rules.

"He was saying that Phil was constantly going in," said Lions captain and lock forward Paul O'Connell, whose team now needs to win next week's second test at Pretoria to level the series ahead of the final game at Johannesburg July 4.

"I didn't think so. It's hard to see how Phil, a very experienced prop who has played rugby a long time at the top of the game, could be making the same mistake four or five times is beyond me. Every time he seemed to be reffing us and not them."

Lions head coach Ian McGeechan said the team would discuss the penalty count against his team with those in charge of appointing the match referees.

"We have a protocol with the referees where we look at some of those decisions and try and get some explanation from them because it's important as we go forward next week," McGeechan said.

The Lions scored three tries to two and showed in the second half they could open up the Springboks defense.

"Our first-half discipline gave them too many easy kicks which is where they took the points," said England backrow Tom Croft, who scored two of the Lions tries.


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