32-10 boosts visitors’ morale
Auckland, June 18, 2017
An inspirational Maro Itoje try, a penalty try and 20 points from the boots of Lion’s fullback Leigh Halfpenny sealed an unequivocal victory for the visitors by 32-10 to give coach Warren Gatland a big boost a week before the first Test with the All Blacks.
The tourists made half a dozen half-breaks in the opening half but just could not get over the try-line. Jonathan Davies went closest.
It started raining in the second half and the Lions forwards took over, reverting to their traditional style of rugby based on pulverising their hosts at the scrum and up front.
The Lions had been rocked by off-field issues, dented too by the defeats from Blues and the Highlanders that had been racking up. The pack was outstanding, with Maro Itoje putting in a colossal shift, so too Taulupe Faletau.
The scrum was superb and half-backs, Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton made best use of it. This was just the stimulant, a timely boost. They may have been doubted from the outside but the soul of the side, without which nothing is possible, looks in good order and have improved immensely.
They [Lions] also showed a combination of smothering defence and precise kicking pinning the Maori back.
A rare foray
A tight first half saw Messam pounce to score an opportunist try after George North had fumbled Nehe Milner-Skudder’s grubber kick.
But that was a rare foray into the 22 for the Maori and the hosts barely got out of their own half after the break as the visitors’ power up front told.
They scored in the 10 minutes the Maori were without Tawera Kerr-Barlow after the scrum-half was yellow carded for a dangerous tackle on Halfpenny.
Many of the Lions team that started the game in Rotorua played themselves into contention to start the first Test against the All Blacks on Saturday, June 24, 2017.
NZ Maori Lowe; Milner-Skudder, Proctor (Thompson 54), Ngatai; R Ioane; McKenzie (West 67), Kerr-Barlow (Hall 74); Hames (Eves 62), A Dixon (Captain; Elliot 70), May (Renata 70), Wheeler (Price 70), Franklin, A Ioane, E Dixon (Pryor 72), Messam. Sin-bin Kerr-Barlow 48.
Try Messam. Con McKenzie. Pen McKenzie.
British & Irish Lions Halfpenny; Watson, Davies, Te’o, North (Daly 64); Sexton (Biggar 67), Murray (Laidlaw 67); Vunipola (McGrath 60), George (Owens 65), Furlong (Sinckler 65), Kruis (Henderson 60), Itoje, O’Mahony (Captain; Warburton 64), O’Brien, Faletau.
Tries Penalty, Itoje. Con Halfpenny. Pens Halfpenny 6.
Referee Jaco Peyper (SA).
Sheevas Dayal is our Rugby Correspondent
Picture Courtesy: Allblacks.com