Gat­land pug­na­cious in de­feat

Sunday Star-Times - - SPORT - Liam Napier

Dis­ap­pointed, de­flated but also de­fi­ant, Lions coach War­ren Gat­land be­lieves the se­ries is far from over.

First and fore­most, Gat­land will put the onus on his pack this week. De­spite much chest beat­ing, the 30-15 de­feat at Eden Park saw the All Blacks tight five take own­er­ship and dom­i­nate the Lions for­wards.

No doubt some egos will be bruised as the tourists head to Welling­ton to face the Hur­ri­canes on Tues­day, which is fol­lowed by Satur­day’s sec­ond test. Rep­u­ta­tions are on the line.

The All Blacks li­ne­out was far from per­fect but they de­liv­ered one em­pathic scrum and shut down the Lions’ vaunted rolling maul. What’s more, Steve Hansen’s men bossed the break­down and found suc­cess go­ing up the guts on sev­eral oc­ca­sions.

The di­rect ap­proach from the All Blacks ap­peared to take Gat­land by sur­prise. So much of the Lions’ suf­fo­cat­ing suc­cess against the Cru­saders and New Zealand Maori ear­lier on this tour came from their for­ward pack’s set piece dom­i­nance, but that could not be repli­cated against the All Blacks.

‘‘They were very good up-front. They did a good job shut­ting down our line speed,’’ Gat­land said. ‘‘They came very hard off nine which got them some front-foot ball and they were very ag­gres­sive at the break­down. We need to learn from that and make sure we’re bet­ter in those ar­eas.

‘‘It was dis­ap­point­ing. We’ve had some suc­cess off our driven li­ne­out and we didn’t do that. The All Blacks sacked us pretty ef­fec­tively to negate that so we’ll need to tac­ti­cally look at that.

‘‘From a set piece point of view there needs to be im­prove­ment there.

‘‘They were very di­rect in the way they played. They didn’t throw the ball around a lot. In fair­ness to them they were phys­i­cal up-front and you’ve got to give them credit for that. We’ve got to be much more phys­i­cal against the All Blacks next week.’’

The Lions made no se­cret of their quest to es­tab­lish their cre­den­tials as the world’s best pack and All Blacks coach Steve Hansen ad­mit­ted he was of­ten baf­fled at New Zealand’s per­ceived weak­nesses in this area. Brodie Re­tal­lick, Sam White­lock, Owen Franks and those who came off the bench cer­tainly put that the­ory to bed.

‘‘Since Adam was a cow­boy if your tight five do the job ev­ery­one else can play,’’ Hansen said. ‘‘Tonight’s test was al­ways go­ing to be won in the tight five and I think we won that battle but that doesn’t a guar­an­tee we’ll win it next week. We have to front up and make sure we pre­pare prop­erly. We’ve got some qual­ity peo­ple there.

‘‘We’ve got to be ex­tremely proud of what they did. You don’t be­come the best side in the world un­less you have a very good tight five. I al­ways find it amus­ing when peo­ple tell us they’re go­ing to beat us up in the tight five. We’re not just a team that can play flashy rugby. We can play down and dirty rugby – in the most re­spect­ful way.’’

Gat­land lamented some ‘‘soft’’ penal­ties and be­ing on the wrong side of Jaco Peyper, con­ced­ing 11 in­fringe­ments to the All Blacks’ six. But af­ter scor­ing one stun­ning 80 me­tre break­out try to Sean O’Brien and blow­ing sev­eral oth­ers, Gat­land re­fused to write off the prospect of an up­set in the cap­i­tal.

‘‘We cre­ated some great chances and played some lovely rugby and scored a cou­ple of nice tries. It was hugely dis­ap­point­ing there were a cou­ple of golden op­por­tu­ni­ties that we could have taken. You fin­ish those chances and it changes the whole mind­set and mo­men­tum of the game.’’

LAWRENCE SMITH

All Blacks cap­tain Kieran Read on the ram­page.

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