Crunch time loom­ing for Lions

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT -

WELLING­TON: While the only mea­sure of suc­cess in New Zealand will be how the Bri­tish and Ir­ish Lions fare against the All Blacks, coach War­ren Gat­land knows Satur­day’s game against the Cru­saders could have huge im­pli­ca­tions for the re­main­der of the tour.

The vis­i­tors de­liv­ered an un­con­vinc­ing win against the semi-pro­fes­sional Provin­cial Bar­bar­ians in their open­ing game and on Wed­nes­day lost to the Blues, New Zealand’s worstper­form­ing Su­per Rugby side this sea­son.

The Cru­saders al­ways loomed as the tough­est op­po­nents of the open­ing 10 days and Gat­land has de­cided to field what ap­pears to be the strong­est Lions side yet, in a bid to avoid what would be a dispir­it­ing sec­ond de­feat so early on the tour.

Should the Cru­saders in­flict de­feat on such a strong side, it could leave the Lions in dis­ar­ray and send Gat­land scur­ry­ing back to the draw­ing board with only three matches be­fore fac­ing the All Blacks.

“It would be dis­ap­point­ing to lose back-to­back matches,” Gat­land said. “The chal­lenge is to come to­gether as quick as we can.

“It’s a great test for us and prepa­ra­tion. We are try­ing to keep a few things back be­hind closed doors.”

While Gat­land may in­deed be keep­ing a few things back, in truth there is very lit­tle time for the Lions to get things right as they build through the tour to­wards that all-im­por­tant first Test against the world cham­pi­ons on June 24.

The vis­i­tors have so far failed to show the in­ten­sity, skill ex­e­cu­tion and co­he­sive­ness that their 20 000 trav­el­ling fans had ex­pected from day one in New Zealand.

While the Lions demon­strated a stiff de­fence against the Blues at Eden Park on Wed­nes­day, they must cap­i­talise on their scor­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties, cre­ate more with the ball in hand, and not rely solely on their kick­ing game to cre­ate pres­sure. And they need to score tries.

Tour cap­tain Sam War­bur­ton, pic­tured, has said they would not beat the All Blacks in the three-Test se­ries un­less they scored more than 20 points per game. How­ever, they failed to breach that mark against the Bar­bar­ians and Blues and scored just one try in both those games.

To­mor­row, the Cru­saders rep­re­sent a con­sid­er­able step up in in­ten­sity with coach Scott Robert­son field­ing all of his All Blacks, with six in the pack alone.

The Lions have sur­pris­ingly failed to dom­i­nate in the scrum and with the Cru­saders boast­ing what is likely to be the All Blacks front row for the first Test, that con­test will be keenly watched. – Reuters

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.