Blown off course

Hur­ri­canes add a span­ner to the works for Bri­tish & Ir­ish Lions ahead of sec­ond Test against All Blacks.

The National - News - Sport - - FRONT PAGE - pradley@then­ational.ae

What cost the Lions what would have been a morale-boost­ing win? Hen­der­son’s un­timely yel­low card? Hur­ri­canes ex­cel­lence?

The fi­nal mid­week match of the Bri­tish & Ir­ish Lions tour of New Zealand fin­ished in a thrilling 3131 draw against the Hur­ri­canes in Welling­ton.

The tour­ing side squan­dered the chance of vic­tory af­ter throw­ing away a 14-point lead, and there are still more ques­tions than an­swers ahead of Satur­day’s sec­ond Test.

Lawes v Hen­der­son

It was clear by the fact Court­ney Lawes was with­drawn from the fray on 54 min­utes that he will likely be part of the Test squad for Satur­day, per­haps even a starter.

Whether the Lions picked the right lock-come-blind­side flanker to rest at that spe­cific mo­ment is a moot point, though.

Lawes has been su­perb on tour so far, but he was over­shad­owed by his sec­ond row part­ner Iain Hen­der­son in New Zealand’s cap­i­tal.

The Ir­ish­man was ev­ery­where, block­ing kicks, pow­er­ing over the gain-line, and ex­hibit­ing the sleight of hand of a back to set up Ge­orge North for a try un­der the posts. And if the man­age­ment were not go­ing to give him a break, he de­cided to give him­self 10 min­utes off, any­way.

Dan­ger­ous play

The com­men­ta­tors were strong on the fact that Hen­der­son should be sent from the field when he teamed up with Jonathan Joseph to tip Jordie Bar­rett over at a ruck.

It was dan­ger­ous play, the only de­bate was whether the card be a red one or yel­low.

Nice to hear all agree that of­fence is pun­ish­able in se­vere terms these days. That has not al­ways been the case on Lions tours to this part of the world.

“I didn’t want to men­tion it,” the com­men­ta­tor said when it was men­tioned that Hen­der­son on Bar­rett was rem­i­nis­cent of a par­tic­u­lar in­ci­dent in 2005.

None of Brian O’Driscoll, Tana Umaga or Keven Mealamu got a name check, but the in­fer­ence was ob­vi­ous.

Scots can play rugby

As the de­bate over who should be picked and where has grown in­creas­ingly fren­zied on this tour, the Scot­tish voice has be­come even more di­luted.

The Scots have barely war­ranted a men­tion, but they were well rep­re­sented against the Hur­ri­canes, es­pe­cially via one eye-catch­ing try.

Greig Laid­law started it with an in­ter­cep­tion out wide near the Lions try line. The scrumhalf popped a per­fect off­load for Tommy Sey­mour, his com­pa­triot, to run in the score.

Maybe it was not quite as flash as Sean O’Brien’s try for the ages in the first Test, but it was a sec­ond try in the space of four days from their own 22 for the Lions.

“Ge­og­ra­phy Six”

What cost the Lions what would have been a morale-boost­ing win? Hen­der­son’s un­timely yel­low card? Hur­ri­canes ex­cel­lence?

Or the fact the Lions were flag­ging, with an un­usu­ally low count of sub­sta­tions be­ing made?

Ge­orge Kruis and Leigh Half­penny were the only two re­place­ments who spent any sig­nif­i­cant amount of time on the field.

The play­ers left on the bench were the so-called “Ge­og­ra­phy Six”, the raft of late ar­rivals con­tro­ver­sially se­lected be­cause of their prox­im­ity to New Zealand rather than merit.

So Gat­land did fly them in over the likes of Joe Launch­bury, Dy­lan Hart­ley and Cian Healey just to hold the tackle bags at train­ing, then.

Se­vere Savea

The Lions were not the only ones look­ing to make late bids for Test se­lec­tion.

Ju­lian Savea was re­leased by the All Blacks to play for the Hur­ri­canes in this game.

He prob­a­bly needed a stand­out dis­play to dis­place Rieko Ioane, his young re­place­ment on the left wing who scored two tries against the Lions on Satur­day, in the New Zealand line-up.

His ef­fort prob­a­bly fell some way short of that. When he first got his hands on the ball, he was stopped quickly by Lions full­back Jack Now­ell.

He was con­spic­u­ous later for drop­ping a high ball, but he did play a key role in Ngani Laumape’s try.

Hagen Hop­kins / Getty Im­ages

Mark Tantrum / Getty Im­ages

Ju­lian Savea was re­leased by New Zealand to play for the Hur­ri­canes and he played a key role in the try that sealed a 31-31- draw in Welling­ton.

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