Gat­land high­lights the pos­i­tives

Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition) - - SPORT -

BRI­TISH and Ir­ish Lions coach War­ren Gat­land thinks the three-test se­ries against New Zealand re­mains very much alive de­spite the dis­ap­point­ment of yes­ter­day’s 30-15 de­feat in the opener.

Pop­u­lar wis­dom had it that the Lions would have to catch the All Blacks cold if they were to have any chance of se­cur­ing a first se­ries win in New Zealand since 1971.

Gat­land, though, thought his team showed enough at Eden Park to give them a foun­da­tion to win the sec­ond test in Welling­ton next week and re­turn to Auck­land for a de­cider in a fort­night, even if they left a cou­ple of op­por­tu­ni­ties on the pitch.

“I thought we cre­ated some great chances, we played some lovely rugby and scored a cou­ple of nice tries, which was hugely pos­i­tive,” the New Zealan­der said.

“It was a bit dis­ap­point­ing that there were a cou­ple of golden mo­ments, great op­por­tu­ni­ties to score, and then we just switched off for a moment....”

Gat­land was less im­pressed with his team’s dis­ci­pline, one lapse in con­cen­tra­tion that led to the All Blacks’ first try, a cou­ple of soft han­dling er­rors and most of all how the hosts dom­i­nated the tight five battle.

“For me those things are all fix­able,” he said. “The All Blacks haven’t played cham­pagne rugby and thrown the ball all over the place.

“In fair­ness to them, they were very di­rect up front and we need to be bet­ter at com­bat­ing them in those ar­eas.”

Gat­land said the squad would head down to Welling­ton with­out any in­jury prob­lems be­yond “a cou­ple of stingers”, which was good news given the test in the tight that New Zealand pre­sented yes­ter­day.

“We’ve got to be much more phys­i­cal next week against the All Blacks be­cause they came with a very phys­i­cal ap­proach tonight and were very di­rect,” he said. “We need to im­prove in that area.” Gat­land said he would also be look­ing for an im­prove­ment in the catch-and-drive from the li­ne­out, an ef­fec­tive tool in pre­vi­ous tour matches but suc­cess­fully coun­tered by New Zealand.

An­other key set piece moment came early in the sec­ond half when the All Blacks pack mon­stered the Lions scrum, lead­ing di­rectly to the first try of winger Rieko Ioane (pic­tured).

“The play­ers will be crit­i­cal of their own per­for­mance and look at the as­pects where we need to im­prove,” Gat­land said of his tight five.

“We need to be tough on our­selves and be hon­est about our own per­for­mance.

“We need to be pre­pared both phys­i­cally and men­tally for next week and know what the step up it is when you come up against the All Blacks.”

Gat­land’s other “work on” for the week was re­duc­ing the num­ber of penal­ties con­ceded, 11 yes­ter­day.

“If you look at the games we’ve played, that’s been the dis­ap­point­ing thing, we’ve given away soft penal­ties and they’ve been costly,” Gat­land said.

“You put your­self un­der pres­sure and when we had them squeezed down around their line, we gave them a soft exit.

“It’s an area we need to look at and make sure we im­prove for next week.” – Reuters

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