Blues V. British and Irish Lions – Lions Tour of New Zealand – 7th June 2017 – KO: 8.35am – Eden Park, Auckland.
The British and Irish Lions went into their game against the Blues this morning looking to make big improvements from their opening game against the Provincial Barbarians.
A minutes silence was held prior to kick off for the victims of the London terror attack on June 6th.
Blues’ Sonny Bill Williams was deemed fit for todays game but was subbed to the bench for Umaga which surprised a packed Eden Park. The Lions kicked off the game but were quickly met by a strong Blues defence who refused to let the Lions gain an early lead. The Blues were in fact the ones to break the deadlock with an early try from Ioane who broke down the line to touch open the scoring. Payne almost hit back immediately, only for the TMO to call it a no try.
The Lions did get to action soon after however, with new face in the BIL camp Maro Itoje setting up for the driving mall from the lineout; leading to Stander getting over the line and Leigh Halfpenny converting the kick to put the Lions ahead 5-7.
After a quick kicking competition between Webb and Duffy, the ball was unplayable in the ruck. With the Lions having momentum, they were given the scrum. It got worse for the Blues as their front row collapsed, allowing Halfpenny to add to his tally with a penalty kick to put his side ahead 5-10. This did not affect the Blues as they continued their attack, which didn’t lead to more than a line out at the 22 yard mark.
End to end action led to Ioane almost going in for his second try of the day after breaking past an offside Biggar; only for the TMO to call the tackle as coming from an offside position much to the annoyance of the determined Kiwi side.
Much was to be asked of the Lions’ poor ability to get rid of the ball on the ground, with Itoje and Halfpenny both giving away penalties. The weather then took it’s toll on the game, with heavy rain coming in with no mercy for the occasion; changing the game from end to end running action to more kicking just before half time.
The action went right up to the half time mark, with the Blues getting another try through TMO which deemed that Nowell knocked the ball back into his in-goal area. Williams had brought his side level with the try, but with the kick being cleanly converted, the Lions went in at the break 12-10 down. A score which Warren Gatland will certainly not be happy with.
Half-Time (Blues 12-10 Lions)
The Lions secure the ball after the Blues kick off and send it straight back up, letting the Blues test their defence as they did in the first half.
The Blues continued to press the Lions and eventually extended their lead with a conversion from yet again s Lions blunder at the tackle as they failed to role away. Substitute Liam Williams could have been in trouble after a mid air collision with Duffy when chasing a Sexton kick. The ref used his common sense here however; not showing Williams a card.
However, in a matter of minutes later, the TMO was further called to action, with the same players going up for a mid air battle for the ball, leading to Williams being shown the yellow for repeatedly putting in poor mid air challenges.
With much to ask for from the second half, with just 25 minutes to go the Lions pull the deficit back to 2 after another penalty kick after Blues man Pulu failed to roll away after he made a tackle. It was a strong ending from the Lions, who got a scrum penalty on the 70th minute, which Halfpenny gladly put away to give the BIL a one point lead with less than ten minutes to go.
It was not to be for the Lions however, as the Blues got a try to snatch the lead back from the Lions, who were unable to hold any lead they had in the game.It was replacement fly-half West who was fed in by none other than All Black SBW to dart in for the try.
The Lions could not bring it back in time, leading to their first loss of the tour. This has left Lions fans questioning what is going on in the BIL camp and whether they will be able to even get up to the standards they need to even put up a competition against the All Blacks.
From the kick off it seemed as though it was not to be the Lions’ day, with too many penalties being brandished for simple mistakes. With Gatland still finding his preferred XV prior to the 3 All Blacks fixtures, there could still be hope for the Lions. With the talent to offer in the 41 man squad, what side would you choose to attempt to beat the All Blacks.