Lions sing the Blues af­ter Su­per Rugby magic mo­ment

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT -

AUCK­LAND: A mo­ment of magic was all the dif­fer­ence in the Bri­tish and Irish Lions 22-16 loss to the Auck­land Blues yes­ter­day, but the ex­pe­ri­ence is only go­ing to im­prove their chances in the three-match Test se­ries, coach War­ren Gat­land said.

Ihaia West scooted away for a 75th minute try af­ter two bril­liant off­loads by Steven Lu­atua and Sonny Bill Wil­liams to give the Auck­land Blues the vic­tory at Eden Park.

“It was just one mo­ment of magic where Ihaia West scored and that shows how dan­ger­ous New Zealand can be,” Gat­land told re­porters in Auck­land. “Credit to West for his try but we have got to get bet­ter at stop­ping the of­fload­ing game.”

The loss fol­lowed a stut­ter­ing 13-7 vic­tory in the tourists opener against a Pro­vin­cial Bar­bar­ians team com­posed of semi-pro­fes­sional and am­a­teur play­ers in Whangarei last Satur­day, and both Gat­land and the side have been heav­ily crit­i­cised for that per­for­mance.

On Wed­nes­day, they did enough to win the game and showed a marked im­prove­ment with more pa­tience and con­trol, a fast de­fen­sive line that cut down the Blues’ space and bet­ter tac­ti­cal kick­ing as the game went on.

“There was def­i­nitely a step up,” Gat­land added. “There were some mo­men­tum shifts in the game (and) ... the most dis­ap­point­ing thing for me was the amount of penal­ties we gave away, par­tic­u­larly when we were on at­tack.”

Gat­land may have lamented the late West try. How­ever, in re­al­ity, it show­cased the fun­da­men­tal dif­fer­ence be­tween the two sides in ba­sic ball­han­dling skills, will­ing­ness to seek space and change the point of at­tack - in all of which the New Zealan­ders looked su­pe­rior to the vis­i­tors.

The for­mer All Blacks hooker, how­ever, still felt the game had been a step in the right di­rec­tion, with the Lions due to play the Can­ter­bury Cru­saders in Christchurch on Satur­day.

The Cru­saders are un­beaten this sea­son in Su­per Rugby and stacked with All Blacks, which Gat­land said would only help his team as they build to­wards the first Test on June 24.

“I think it was a big step up from our first game on tour and I hope we can take an­other step up on Satur­day,” he said.

“It is go­ing to be tough. We al­ways knew it would be. Play­ing the Su­per Rugby sides is go­ing to be great prepa­ra­tion for the Test matches (be­cause) I don’t think there is too much dif­fer­ence be­tween the Su­per Rugby sides and the All Blacks.

“There is so much depth in this coun­try,” he added. “Tonight we will learn a lot and it will give us great prepa­ra­tion. Satur­day will as well.” – Reuters

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