Standing up to Crusaders pack vital ahead of tests - Rowntree

Solenn Plantier
Juin 11, 2017

British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland has taken a sarcastic swipe at critics who prematurely wrote off his team's chances on their tour of New Zealand.

The Wales boss, who is seeking to guide the British and Irish Lions to glory against the All Blacks, has been talked-up as a potential replacement should Hansen stand down after the 2019 World Cup.

While he was at it, he couldn't resist taking a dig at poor Warren Gatland. It is not just that a core of the likely Test line-up hails from the double European champions, it is that the Lions have also produced a similar gameplan to the English giants. The fierce competitor battled back to top form against the Crusaders, forging a fine duo with George Kruis.

Together with Murray, he generally kicked short to make the ball contestable, a tactic which caused the Crusaders problems.

The Lions watch the Crusaders perform a Haka.

Farrell. The England worldwide looks to have sealed a jersey for the first Test following a commanding performance.

That philosophy, which wasn't entirely discernible in the Lions' opening 13-7 win over the Provincial Barbarians, was more evident in the improved performance against the Blues.

Crusaders Captain Sam Whitelock says his team struggled to handle the Lions' differing style of play. It seems possible that Gatland believes the first as an article of faith, but even All Blacks coach Steve Hansen doubts he believes the second. Thankfully for the tourists it did not prove costly.

The Lions swatted that record aside, however, heaping another level of intrigue on the three-Test series, that starts on June 24.

"The Lions defence has to be exceptional and their line speed is crucial", said Sky Sports pundit Stuart Barnes. The hosts rejected two routine shots at goal in favour of punting to the corner. Apart from one misfired pass which potentially cost Jonathan Davies a try, Farrell's running game was damaging. They kept the forwards shifting in Gatland's two-pod attacking system and then exploited the space when it opened up. The tourists know full well how annoying that is to opponents, and are quite right to keep doing it.

The Crusaders still had the bottle to go for a lineout rather than take the points - and Richie Mo'unga's brilliant line kicking off penalties has been a big part of his team's success this season - but the Lions repulsed them.

On a chip and chase, down the left flank, Hogg ran straight into the raised elbow of the retreating Conor Murray.

Jonathan Davies looked sharp and tough, but was forced off for a Head Injury Assessment (HIA). He would not return, meaning Johnny Sexton came on and Farrell moved to centre.

The first 30 minutes of the second half were scoreless until Farrell landed his fourth penalty with 10 minutes to play.

The likes of Brodie Retallick, Israel Dagg and Ben Smith have also been under injury clouds but are expected to be fine for the series.

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