The British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand is under way and, with days to go before the first Test against the All Blacks, we’ve been looking for clues in the run-up games as to who’s going to win the series.
The Lions’ coach, Warren Gatland, was initially criticized for selecting a squad that didn’t tap into the youth talent available across the English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish teams, and instead relying on old guards for a steady set of hands.
So how’s it panned out so far?
In the first match against the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians, the Lions failed to impress, scraping a 7-13 win, with just one try coming from Anthony Watson.
Not exactly a convincing start, but Gatland had always said that he’s willing to lose matches at the beginning in order to secure the Test wins.
Which is just as well, as lose they did in their second match against the Blues with the final score 22-16.
The Lions failed to get going and just couldn’t compete with the Blues at the breakdown.
Sonny Bill Williams was definitely key to this game; with his raw power and quick hands, he was our man of the match for this one.
Next up came the Crusaders.
They hadn’t been beaten all season and there was concern that the Lions’ set pieces and slow build-ups wouldn’t compete with the Crusaders’ lightning fast Super Rugby playing style.
As it turned out, the Lions upped the ante since their defeat to the Blues and nudged a 3-12 win in a low-scoring game.
The Highlanders came next, and so did the Lions’ second defeat of the tour.
A late penalty by Marty Banks secured the Otago side the narrowest of wins. Final score? 23 -22.
Maori All Blacks
Against the Maori All Black, the Lions pitted their best team so far.
Captained by Peter O’Mahoney, they played to their strengths and overcame the opposition in difficult, rainy conditions.
With a slippery ball, Leigh Halfpenny stood out for keeping it under control and scoring a litany of penalties to secure a 10 – 32 win.
In Hamilton for their final match before the first Test against the All Blacks, the Lions showed their poise and form with a convincing win against the Chiefs.
While the first half dragged by, the second kicked into gear with the sin-binning of Chiefs’ flanker Mitchell Brown, which allowed the tourists to race to their highest score so far this tour.
With just days to go before the first Test, it looks like the Lions are on the up.
While their defensive game has been superb during the weekday matches, the win against the Chiefs showed that their attacking prowess is there too, waiting to be kicked into action.
Grab some shades to keep cool keeping up with all the great play:
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