LIONS RUN DOWN IN DUNEDIN - Green and Gold Rugby
All Blacks



A late charge from the Highlanders saw them overhaul the Lions 23-22 under the roof in Dunedin on Tuesday night.


The Lions again fielded a completely different starting XV than played in Christchurch, with tour skipper Sam Warburton getting another chance to prove his match fitness ahead of the Tests. Given how well Sean O’Brien played in Christchurch, he more than anyone needed to put in a big performance.

The Highlanders had the services of three All Blacks squad members (wing Waisake Naholo, 5/8 Lima Sopoaga, and hooker Liam Coltman) released from their training camp. Other than those three and Malakai Fekitoa the Lions wouldn’t have know too much about the rest of the Highlanders.


No pre-match haka for the Highlanders, but if anything captain Luke Whitelock presenting his opposite Sam Warburton with a replica claymore looked even more odd.

The opening minutes of the game were played at a frenetic pace and Highlanders centre Malakai Fekitoa probably bombed a try by passing to the man running the inside line rather than the outside. There was consolation, though, as 5/8 Lima Sopoaga opened the scoring with a penalty.

The Lions came roaring back, wing Tommy Seymour being brought down just short then halfback Rhys Webb dropping the ball over the line trying to go over rather than around the resulting pileup. It was all under penalty advantage so flyhalf Dan Biggar levelled the scores after 15 minutes.

Highlanders wing Waisake Naholo scored the first try of the night at 24 minutes, powering over from close range. Lions lock Courtney Lawes was dazed attempting to tackle Naholo, left the field, and didn’t return. Sopoaga’s conversion made it 10-3.

The Lions replied with a gem of a try to centre Jonathan Joseph after a stymied lineout drive, evading Sopoaga’s tackle to score. Biggar added the extras to level the scores again.

Half time: 10-10

The Lions had the better of the third quarter, scoring soon after the resumption through Seymour who snatched an attempted kick-pass by Sopoaga and had no-one in front of him. Biggar’s shot at goal missed.

Sopoaga redeemed himself somewhat by adding another three from the tee to make the score 15-13 with just under 30 minutes to play, but an error from him lead to Warburton scoring from an attacking scrum shortly after.

The Highlanders then turned down two shots at goal in favour of setting up lineout drives, hooker Liam Coleman scoring from the second as the Lions counter-drive fell apart. Replacement 5/8 Marty Banks reduced the deficit to 20-22.

Replacements Owen Farrell and Elliott Daly both had chances to make the game safer, Daly’s a monster 57-metre effort that only just fell short, but neither was successful. Instead it was Marty Banks who nailed the winner from a scrum penalty after 73 minutes, his side holding on for the win.

For Highlanders: tries Naholo, Coltman. Con Sopoaga (2). Pen Sopoaga (3), Banks.

For Lions: tries Joseph, Seymour, Warburton. Con Biggar (2). Pen Biggar.


The Lions move on to Rotorua where they’ll play the Maori All Blacks on Saturday.

  • I’ve just finished watching! Great game and the crowd was emense!

    • Hoss

      i hear you Big Sul.

      As a neutral (well, not really – whats the old adage, the enemy of my enemy is my friend..Go Lions) it was a cracker. Fast, physical and fun to watch, thought the ref Gus Gardner had a ripper too, he is really in form as well,

      All in all makes for a compelling test series, it will be a bell ringer and be great to enjoy some high octane, punishing Rugby again.

      I am over reading all and sundries opinions on Aussie Ruby, 5 teams v 4 teams, the ARU, the selections ad nauseam -be great to be able to sit back and savour the great tradition that is the Lions and the challenge of overcoming the Dark Lords, there something special brewing across the ditch – i reckon its game on.

      • Tommy Brady

        Australian rugby may be currently experiencing it’s share of challenges, however in my opinion Angus Gardner is head and shoulders above any referee out there and a real pleasure to watch. His efforts to be impartial are never in doubt but he referees with great accuracy, possesses terrific feel for a game, has great repore with players and genuinely works hard to ensure a good contest for everyone.

        These last 2 matches have unfortunately illustrated a wider than necessary officiating style between NH and SH referees. I know which I prefer – and I think the contrasting nature of the 2 matches has borne that out. I would happily have Angus Gardner referee every remaining match of the tour. Best in class!!

        I sense the Lions are in a tough spot. They have been forced to show a lot of cards very early in the tour. Rush defenses, box kicks and goal kicking only gets you so far in test matches in NZ. The ability of the AB ball runners to cart the ball over the advantage line will likely see more Lions forwards be forced to commit to breakdowns. The ensuing mis-matches in their defensive line will create opportunities. It makes for an interesting few weeks….

  • Greg

    The lions complaining that the ref should not penalize a new front row while they find their way. Thoughts?

    • Hoss

      Bit hard for me to be objective Greg, I am not and have never been a fan of Dan ‘Origami’ Coles. He has made a career of angling in and collapsing scrums. Having said that the Lions were a bit stiff with 3 to go and deep on attack with the feed and got a dud call on an attacking scrum, but 5 minutes earlier they got towelled up and ultimately that lead to the match-winning penalty to the Duneedians.

      To your question though, thought Gardener reffed extremely well, with the game in the balance it’s up to the pine riders to come on and meet the standards set by the ref during the game, I have no issue with pinging them. Giving the reserves a settling in also detracts from an opposition scrum that may have the ascendancy for any number of reasons (technique, fitness etc). The backs do not get a settler (5 yards offside, but that’s ok as they just came on) they also spend the game watching and getting a feel for the officiating and they warm up for extended periods – so game on.

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a.k.a. Waiopehu Oldboy.

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