LIONS TAMED IN AUCKLAND - Green and Gold Rugby
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LIONS TAMED IN AUCKLAND

LIONS TAMED IN AUCKLAND

The All Blacks have gone one-nil up in the three-match series with a hard-fought but ultimately comfortable 30-15 victory at Eden Park.

TEAM NEWS

The All Blacks were bolstered by the return of captain Kieran Read (broken thumb), centre Ryan Crotty (ribs), and 5/8 Aaron Cruden (knee) from injury. The major selection surprise was the dumping of 53-Test wing Julian Savea for Akira Ioane, the latter’s superior ability under the high ball and on defence apparently getting him the nod for his first run-on appearance after two coming off the bench.

The Lions sprung a major surprise of their own in elevating flanker Peter O’Mahoney to the captaincy, tour captain Sam Warburton relegated to the bench. Lock Maro Itoje was another surprise on the bench, the greater bulk of Alun Wyn Jones being preferred in the starting XV. Flyhalf Owen Farrell (quad strain) was passed fit during the week, as was Leigh Halfpenny (concussion), but the selectors chose to start Liam Williams at fullback instead.

New Zealand: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Israel Dagg, 13 Ryan Crotty, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody

Replacements: 16 Nathan Harris, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Scott Barrett, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Aaron Cruden/Lima Sopoaga, 23 Anton Lienert-Brown

British and Irish Lions: 15 Liam Williams, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Ben Te’o, 11 Elliot Daly, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Sean O’Brien, 6 Peter O’Mahony (c), 5 George Kruis, 4 Alun Wyn Jones, 3 Tadgh Furlong, 2 Jamie George, 1 Mako Vunipola

Replacements: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 Maro Itoje, 20 Sam Warburton, 21 Rhys Webb, 22 Jonathan Sexton, 23 Leigh Halfpenny

Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa). Assistant Referees: Romain Poite (France), Jérôme Garcès (France). TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)

THE MATCH

The All Blacks survived an early scare when Lions Centre Jonathan Davies broke the line to seemingly send his halfback Conor Murray away for the opening try. Murray was brought down just short, though, and just as it seemed wing Elliot Daly was sure to score from the resulting ruck, his opposite Israel Dagg made a try-saving, ball-and-all tackle in the corner.

That paved the way for the All Blacks to score the first points of the night, 5/8 Beauden Barrett successful with a penalty in the 14th minute. From the next penalty halfback Aaron Smith tapped when everyone in Red seemed to assume another kick at goal was about to happen, shifted it wide to Dagg who threw a long ball to hooker Codie Taylor loitering on the wing. Taylor had work to do, scooping the ball off his bootlaces then maintaining his balance to go over. Barrett’s conversion made it 10-0.

Lions flyhalf Owen Farrell got the Lions on the board with a penalty, Barrett replying soon after to restore the 10-point gap, before the Lions scored one of the great tries seen at this or any other ground.

First, fullback Liam Williams fielded a kick deep in his 22 but instead of taking the soft-option clearance, backed himself to evade All Black No. 8 Kieran Read, which he did with some ease. He then beat five more defenders before being brought down near halfway but not before feeding Davies. After inter-passing with Daly, Davies made the final transfer to flanker Sean O’Brien who crashed over. Farrell converted.

Half time: All Blacks 13-8 Lions

All Blacks wing Reiko Ioane had a quiet first half but justified his selection with two tries in the second. With 55 minutes gone the All Blacks destroyed a Lions scrum and shifted it wide for Ioane to finish. Barrett’s conversion and a penalty soon after took the score to 23-8 and left the Lions needing to score three times in the final quarter.

Ioane’s second try sealed the match. Liam Williams made a rare error, dropping the ball just inside his half. Ioane was first to the ball and had too much strength and speed for Daly to prevent him scoring. A TMO review confirmed the grounding and Barrett added the extras.

The Lions, by now well out of contention, kept up the fight and scored the final try of the night to replacement halfback Rhys Webb but it was too little, too late.

The scorers

For New Zealand:Tries: Taylor, Ioane 2. Cons: Barrett 3. Pens: Barrett 3
For British and Irish Lions: i: O’Brien, Web. Con: Farrell. Pen: Farrell

Highlights:

The second Test is in Wellington next Saturday, kickoff at 17:35 AEST. Conventional wisdom is that the All Blacks improve through a series, something sure to give coach Warren Gatland and his coaching- and playing groups plenty to ponder in the meantime. There’s also the small matter of the Hurricanes match on Tuesday night but one suspects that will be very much secondary in their thoughts.

  • Mike Thompson

    You just have to admire the deftness of the All Black tactics, and their ability to execute them.

    The Lions had one huge weapon: their strong defensive press, which requires great athleticism, strength and a deep bench. They’d already used it to bludgeon and tame the Crusaders, Chiefs and Maroi. Combined with their set piece, it allowed them to strangle the Kiwi teams, and grind them down.

    On the other side, the All Blacks main weapon is their attack. So much better than anyone else in world Rugby. A team like the Crusaders takes the ball from sideline to sideline, via a bit of muscle mid field, and that defensive press from the Lions really disrupted them.

    So … we were in for a fascinating confrontation of styles. Except the All Blacks took the Lions’ defensive press off the table with their early tactics. They took away the Lions’ main weapon.

    First the All Blacks moved the ball to about 15m to 20m from the sideline and then either:
    – played tight on the openside, with short passes from the halfback to a runner. The backs came in and helped out with these darts. Never a long pass from the half to the ball carrying runner. Short and sharp. No time for a rush up press. Just an advantage line confrontation.
    – or, they played back to the blind side when it got too wide, taking play back towards the sideline and working to exploit some mismatch in the blindside 3 on 3 which had developed.

    The Lions defensive press (which would have happened wider out on the open side) simply didn’t come into it. The All Blacks dictated the terms.

    And then, later in the game, once the All Blacks had “trained” the Lions to not press up in defense, they went back occasionally to more traditional Kiwi open side plays, and more sideline to sideline plays.

    Of course, it is one thing to have the tactic, and anther thing to execute it. Which, or course, the All Blacks did pretty much perfectly. Hats off.

    • Dally M

      The Lions allowed the AB’s to play the game at pace & they took advantage of having Peyper as the ref.

      He was allowing the AB’s to slow down the ball at the ruck, falling on the wrong side, holding players in, blocking etc. the usual stuff the kiwi’s do and the Lions didn’t twig to this and do the same.

      Will be interesting to see how it goes with a Northern Hemisphere ref next week & will the Lions be able to slow the AB’s game down while getting faster ball themselves.

      • Mica

        Also Peyper allowed the kiwis to enter attacking rucks from the side, so when the Lions made a good spot tackle with the kiwis fanned out to support the ball runner (through short passes) they weren’t given the opportunity to get on the ball. Really interesting to see this as a neutral. Would have been filthy if this was against the Wobblies. This is what gave the kiwis all the momentum with their narrow raids and they were able to execute this tactic with impunity.

        • Dally M

          The Lions should have known that was coming though & if they didn’t they should have adapted and slowed the AB’s down but they were more concerned with fanning out & defending which was no good when they were constantly backpedaling.

      • Julius

        Do you ever stop whining?

        • Dally M

          Where was the whine?

          I don’t have a stake in this contest.

          I was merely commenting on what i saw compared to what i have seen in the earlier games under the Northern Hemisphere refs.

          It’s a shame that was all you could manage to contribute & added nothing to the discussion.

      • Tommy Brady

        I sense the All Blacks will absolutely explode this Saturday night in Wellington. They’ll take the referee out of the contest and crush the Lions with Southern Hemisphere rugby.

        Tune in – it will be a great watch for rugby fans down under.

        • Angela Train

          They exploded alright

  • Keith Butler

    No complaints from me about the result. The ABs out thought and out played the Lions and deserved the win. For the life of me I cannot understand the Lions fixation with the box kick. By all means use is as a means of getting out of defence but as an attacking weapon, after a few hiccups, the ABs coped with it comfortably. The ABs also coped with structured running plays but looked vulnerable with off the cuff plays, the Lions try was a gem that they could not defend against. The Lions need at least one ball carrier at lock. Kruis and Jones did not cut it against Whitelock and Retallick (brilliant for 80 mins. And for effs sake when will refs do something about Wyatt’I cannot scrum straight’ Crockett. Ioane’s first try was on the back of a scrum penalty when his arse was at 90 degrees before the ball was put in. Still looking forward to next week. Come on Lions, cut down the box kicking and attack the ABs down the narrow and wide. What’s to lose?

    • Mica

      Yeah Peyper didn’t have a great game. It was pretty loose.

  • mikado

    Good game and well deserved win for the ABs. Kruis and Jones were monstered, the Lions failed to slow AB ball, and they got punished for some defensive howlers. On the evidence of this game I don’t think the Lions have enough to win either of the two remaining Tests. I think they’ll swap four or five players for the second Test.

    • Brent Craig

      I think AWJ needs to go, they’re better off with Itoje even if he’s a few kg lighter. Also they need CJ Stander out there IMO, he’s the nearest they’ve got to Billy V. Other than those two I don’t see too much room for tinkering player-wise. You could maybe bench Kruis but whoever partners Itoje isn’t going to look too flash up against Retallick & Whitelock who must now be considered the best-ever AB locking pair.

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