The Scottish Mail on Sunday

Far­rells point the way ahead as tourists get into the spirit

- Sir Clive Wood­ward FOR­MER LIONS COACH

WHAT a huge day for the Far­rell fam­ily. On the pitch, Owen bossed the game from start to fin­ish and showed why he is so fun­da­men­tal to the Lions on this tour. Mean­while, off the pitch, his dad, Andy, should take a bow for mas­ter­mind­ing a huge de­fen­sive ef­fort which cut down the best at­tack­ing side in Su­per Rugby at source. As he ap­proaches the best years of his ca­reer, Owen Far­rell brings a calm­ness and con­trol to pro­ceed­ings as well as his nat­u­ral ag­gres­sion and phys­i­cal­ity. He is an un­usual but bril­liant mix, and his com­bi­na­tion with Conor Mur­ray, who was ab­so­lutely on top of his game at scrum-half, is go­ing to be the beat­ing heart of the Lions.

Jonny Sex­ton also did well when he came on for the in­jured Jonathan Davies but the Far­rell-Mur­ray combo seems to be set in stone — and I can see why.

It is vi­tal, though, that Sex­ton gets back in the swing. Far­rell could get in­jured and hav­ing vir­tu­ally like-for-like re­place­ments in such a key po­si­tion is a big plus. Each played a big part in the Lions’ im­pres­sive de­fen­sive ef­fort or­gan­ised by Far­rell se­nior.

The Cru­saders have been scor­ing tries for fun this year (74 in 14 Su­per 15 matches) and had not failed to score a try in a match since April 2015, so to shut them out was a mas­sive achieve­ment.

The fi­nal score­line did not flat­ter the Lions, they could or should have scored a cou­ple of tries and per­haps won by 20 points. Yes, it would help enor­mously if they could start putting away some of their chances but re­mem­ber there were still nine play­ers mak­ing their first start on tour yes­ter­day. It will come, but the big chal­lenge on mod­ern tours is whether un­der­stand­ing, pre­ci­sion and tim­ing can be de­vel­oped quickly enough.

Else­where, there were some sig­nif­i­cant per­for­mances. The line-out func­tioned smoothly, with Ge­orge Kruis im­mense, and he was also very phys­i­cal around the park. It is such a close call at lock but I am be­gin­ning to think that Kruis is the def­i­nite Test starter, with Alun Wyn Jones, Maro Itoje — who was very good off the bench — and Court­ney Lawes fight­ing out the sec­ond spot. En­vi­able riches.

Jamie Ge­orge went well at hooker in prob­a­bly the big­gest game he has started out­side of Sara­cens du­ties and he is press­ing Ken Owens, one of the suc­cesses against Auck­land, very hard for the Test spot.

I have al­ways been an An­thony Wat­son fan. He cer­tainly did his cause no harm with a lively per­for­mance when com­ing on for Stu­art Hogg, who was warm­ing to his task when felled by that freak in­jury, run­ning into Mur­ray’s el­bow. As well as hav­ing gas, Wat­son does the ba­sics well at full-back. I won­der if Gat­land will be tempted.

Over­all, the 2017 Lions im­pressed me yes­ter­day and are re­ally up and run­ning now. I sense a great ca­ma­raderie in this group, they al­ready seem very close knit and tight and that will serve them well.

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