Tinker time now over for Lions

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT -

WELLING­TON: The time for tin­ker­ing with the Bri­tish and Ir­ish Lions side is over as the tourists head to Ro­torua for what many view as an un­of­fi­cial fourth Test against the Maori All Blacks on Satur­day.

War­ren Gat­land will fi­nally show his hand to­day when he an­nounces his team for the en­counter with the Maori side, a line-up that should closely re­sem­ble his se­lec­tion for the first Test in Auck­land on June 24.

The Lions have strug­gled for con­sis­tency in the first four games of their 10-match tour, with Tues­day’s 23-22 loss to the High­landers com­ing three days af­ter they had stran­gled the Crusaders into sub­mis­sion.

The team that faced the High­landers was a com­pletely dif­fer­ent out­fit from the side that beat the seven-time Su­per Rugby cham­pi­ons 12-3 with a con­trolled, pa­tient and ag­gres­sive per­for­mance 10 days ago.

The High­landers game was sup­posed to have been a chance for the team to con­tinue to build mo­men­tum as they headed into the Maori clash.

In­stead, the tourists took a step back­wards and some of the tour­ing party blew what chance they may have had of mak­ing the team for the open­ing Test.

Ire­land loose for­ward CJ Stander put his name into the mix with a ti­tanic per­for­mance at No 8, while tour cap­tain Sam War­bur­ton grew into the game and was much bet­ter in the sec­ond half.

Wales scrumhalf Rhys Webb also showed he would not al­low Conor Mur­ray to take a mort­gage on the scrumhalf jersey.

One of Gat­land’s big­gest con­cerns, how­ever, must be the set piece, where the tourists have failed to show any­where near the dom­i­nance they had hoped to.

The Crusaders bossed the scrum de­spite some ques­tion­able rul­ings from ref­eree Mathieu Ray­nal and Joe Moody’s bat­tle with Tadhg Fur­long in the front row au­gured well for New Zealand with the pair likely to clash again in the Test matches.

The High­landers were also barely trou­bled through­out the Dunedin clash and, with their re­place­ment front row on, de­stroyed the Lions in a key scrum to give Marty Banks the chance to kick the win­ning penalty.

Gat­land, how­ever, felt the in­con­sis­tency was due to the dif­fer­ent in­ter­pre­ta­tions be­tween French­man Ray­nal and Aus­tralian An­gus Gard­ner, who was in con­trol on Tues­day.

“We have all got to learn from the in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the ref­eree at scrum-time,” Gat­land said.

“It’s about adapt­ing on the pitch.

“It’s an area we have to keep work­ing hard at and look­ing to im­prove.”

In­dis­ci­pline at cru­cial times has also let the Lions down, with Gat­land keen to re­duce the penalty count.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.