The Hurricanes hosted the British and Irish Lions this morning in the last mid week fixture of the tour.
It was a much anticipated fixture, with Gatland having some points of improvement from their less than satisfying loss to the All Blacks on Saturday; although it does not come close to the standards they will face when they return to play the Kiwis.
The Lions kicked off the game, with Dan Biggar kicking deep into the opposition’s half. It was a strong start from the Lions, which even saw Jordie Barrett knock on a low pass. This started what was to be a scrappy start to the game; seeing three scrums in the first six minutes. Only one was given to the Hurricanes.
The Lions first got into the opposition 22 when Biggar kicked a penalty from a penalised Hurricanes scrum. This led to a good maul at about 15 metres out as they looked to find a way to get off the mark. The Hurricanes did well on the defence, but they were not quick enough and were caught offside and Biggar looked to go for the quick tap but decided to play it safe and get the Lions off the mark with an easy penalty. Although there was no try, this were promising signs.
They continued to attack the opposition 22 from the restart, as Jordie Barrett made another mistake and was penalised for a high tackle. It was impressive play from the Lions, and quite the opposite from the Hurricanes, as they gave away another penalty for offside; this time Biggar decides to go to touch.
It was the Lions who ran the show early on; adding the pressure on an un-expecting Super Rugby side, but the hosts held out at on the defence and pushed out of their 22, leading to their first penalty of the game as the Lions did not role away. This seemed to spare on the Kiwi side, with them spreading the play nicely from the line-out, only for Nowell to bring down a charging Julian Savea.
From the Hurricanes attack, the Lions countered as Laidlaw read the attack perfectly and picked out Tommy Seymour who did ran the rest and got the first try of the game. Biggar makes the conversion look easy and puts the Lions on double digits at 0-10.
This seemed to give the Lions what they needed to stay strong as Milner-Skudder caused problems from the lineout, only for Best to claim back the ball and set Biggar for a sneaky kick over the top, which Joseph got hold of as he got taken out mid-air. The foul led to Biggar’s third kick of the game, putting the score at 0-13 as Gatland makes some changes as North moves to inside centre.
The pressure eventually became too much for the Lions, as the Hurricanes’ Callum Gibbins broke over the line to make the score 5-13 before Barrett kicked successfully to make it 7-13. This lead was quickly lengthened again as May was penalised for blocking as the Hurricanes tried to clear the ball. It was Dan Biggar who added to his tally and pushed the score to 7-16.
It was in the 36th minute when the next try came, and it was a Lions one, as Biggar sends another kick causing confusion which led to some quick hands from Henderson who fed North in for the unopposed try. Biggar continued his kicking streak with another two points for the visitors. The teams went in at half time with the score at 7-23.
It went to the TMO straight away for the hosts, and it proved worthy, as Laumape’s try was approved, as was Jordie Barrett’s kick, which made the score 14-23. The game became more of a competition at this point, with both sides going all out to get the win.
The Lions seemed were lucky to not have conceded later on in the 47th minute, as brad Shields found a loose ball but could not find a friendly shirt for the offload. The Lions cleared but it was brought back as Halfpenny was penalised for tugging on an uninvolved man. The game became a bit heated soon after, and referee Romain Poite called both captains over to cool down the situation.
The Hurricanes were able to close up the gap with another Barrett kick, making it only one score between the two sides. Although, Tahuriorangi dismissed Barrett’s efforts, as he was sent to the sin bin for a poor challenge; giving Biggar a chance to further extend his tally. The game was far from over however, as the Lions continued to attack, leading to the TMO to be called upon after Henderson bundled over between the sticks. It was not to be however, as the decision ruled it not a try, but this then gave the Lions a scrum, which Seymour took advantage of for his second try of the morning. Biggar didn’t get the rest this time, as his attempt drifted wide of the posts.
From here it was scrappy action, with both sides attempting to keep the ball in the opposition’s half. This led to the Lions’ first yellow of the game, as Barrett went for the clearance; Henderson met him with a tough clearance. One which was deemed too rough by the ref’. This gave the hosts a chance to get at the line, a chance that they took, as Barrett kicked to the 22; allowing Laumape to run through to 5 metres. Barrett then spread play wide to put in Wes Goosen for an easy try. Barrett adds to his numbers by converting the kick. This opened the game up with just over 10 minutes to go.
To say the game was still all to play for, the Lions did not shut up shop, as North gave away another opportunity to the Hurricanes after he left the ground at the breakdown, giving them the chance to kick into the corner again, which then led to them getting another try through TMO as Fifita dove over the ruck to touch down. With less than ten minutes to play, Barrett makes it all square with another conversion.
The mistakes of late were still present in the closing moments of the game, as Halfpenny knocked on to give the hosts a scrum about 35 metres out; tensions building as they edge further forward. The pressure was met by a strong Lions defence which brought a Lions scrum 5 metres from their own line. The Lions were quick to get the ball out an push up after the scrum, as they were given a penalty for a neck roll on Halfpenny by Laumape.
The Lions went for one last attack, but it was not enough, as the Hurricanes’ defence stood strong and held up to get themselves a well deserved draw against what seemed to be a dominant Lions side. The game finished at 31-31.
A quality end to a quality game…
— British&Irish Lions (@lionsofficial) 27 June 2017
With the Lions not being able to get the win in Wellington today, who thinks that they will be able to get the pull out a much needed performance in the second test against the All Blacks?