Crusaders Vs LionsSo the Lions got back to winning ways with a solid display that saw them beat the current leaders of Super Rugby the Crusaders winning a tight tussle by 12-3. Owen Farrell started at out half with Conor Murray making his first start of this tour. The Lions had been defeated on Wednesday morning by 22-16.
This game was crucial for the whole tour.
This win was built on solid foundations of a solid scrum and line out.
These two facets of the game will mean that this group of Lions will have plenty to be positive about heading to Dunedin next Tuesday to take the Highlanders before facing the Maori All Blacks in Rotarua next Saturday.
The Crusaders still at moments throughout this game showed why rugby in New Zealand is so revered. They play at a pace that even the Lions can’t live with at times. Jack Goodhue looks to be an All Black in waiting although with the talent in the centre for New Zealand he may have to wait another few months before getting a Test debut with New Zealand.
Injuries to both Stuart Hogg and Jonathan Davies will rule them out of contention for the Highlanders but they will go through return to play protocols and will be hopeful of being involved against the Maori All Blacks. The combination of Murray and Farrell looked at home at half back and led the Lions around the field and when the opportunities arose the Lions took their chances by kicking four penalties.
One issue that again rose its head again with the Lions is the lack of sparkle in attack and that particular issue will need to be addressed in the next two weeks before the opening Test against the All Blacks. On 6 different occasions the Lions broke through the Crusaders defence and each attack faltered with a missed pass or slow ball or poor accuracy in terms of passing. Guys who will hope to be involved with the Test side will seriously need to up their skill level.
On all 6 occasions that the Lions broke through one feels that the All Blacks would take full advantage of each chance and have 6 tries scored. The game this morning could have been much easier had the Lions taken at least two of the try scoring chances they created. This aspect of play will really need to looked at to stand any chance of beating the All Blacks in two weeks time.
You can also see the Test team taking shape as the games have progressed. In my humble opinion a number of players are already assured of a Test spot barring injury to strike in the next few games. Players like Murray , Faletau , Farrell and Jamie George looking very likely to be involved in the first Test.
Slowly but surely the Lions game plan is evolving and you can see it beginning to take shape but Rob Howley will really need to get his players to sharpen up on the training pitch and learn on the fly how to be clinical when the chance happens. It is second nature to a New Zealander but the Lions players need to learn that it is not only a guy in a black shirt that can finish a chance off.
All road now lead to Dunedin and the Highlanders where another couple of All Blacks may lie in wait namely Ben , Aaron Smith and Waisake Naholo. Only time will tell if these guys will be given an early shot at the Lions.
Warren Gatland has to be happy with how this morning went but he will recognise that there is plenty of work to do in the next two weeks.
Cian Mc Gibney