Lions impress in All Blacks dress rehearsal
LEIGH Halfpenny booted the British and Irish Lions to a convincing 32-10 win over the Maori All Blacks yesterday to regain precious momentum before next week’s first Test against New Zealand.
After turning 12-10 ahead, a penalty try soon after halftime and try from lock Maro Itoje — when the Maori had a man in the sin bin — gave the Lions complete control at a wet Rotorua. Halfpenny kicked six penalties and a conversion.
The Lions’ confidenceboosting win, after Tuesday’s loss to the Otago Highlanders and a week before they face the All Blacks, underscored how the first Test in Auckland will be a battle of contrasting styles.
While the All Blacks ran from all angles in their 12-try, 78-0 win over Samoa on Friday, the clinical Lions stuck to their formula of mixing a kickand-chase game from Conor Murray with strong driving forward play.
They had the better of the Maori in the air and at the breakdown, and they dominated the scrums in the second half.
Such was their overwhelming control, boosted by the scavenging of Sean O’Brien, that they enjoyed more than 70 per cent of possession.
Despite an abundance of ball and territory they struggled to beat a tenacious Maori defence and get across the line.
Meanwhile, Fiji conjured a dramatic drop goal after the full-time siren to defeat Italy 22-19 in a one-off Test in Suva, extending the Azzurri’s losing streak to eight games.
Ireland gave Japan a brutal reality check as they crushed the Asian champions 50-22 yesterday in the second of their three-match summer tour.