Five things we learned from the Lions' defeat to Blues
It proved to be a, shall we say, difficult day for the Lions - here's the breakdown.
1. Scrum dominance fails to pay off
The British and Irish Lions had an obvious advantage in the scrum against the Blues, but referee Pascal Gauzere appeared content to allow scrums to collapse as long as the ball was at the No.8 CJ Stander’s feet. The Lions did win a fair few penalties in the scrum, but there were more left out on the pitch as they made mincemeat of the Blues’ all-All Blacks front-row.
Had the Lions been awarded a few more penalties, they could have built more pressure on the Blues and, with a superior set-piece on all fronts, you got the idea that it could have proven the difference for the Lions.
2. Lineout falters at the wrong time
The Lions had a late chance to win the game, only for the lineout to go wrong at the worst possible time. After being awarded a penalty in the final minute, the Lions kicked to the corner, only for Maro Itoje (above) to call the wrong lineout move and the Blues won the ball to secure victory.
However, the lineout was actually one of the success points for the Lions as Itoje and Courtney Lawes ran it superbly, with Ken Owens doing his chance of playing in the Test side a world of good with strong and reliable throwing. Had that final lineout gone to hands, who knows what the Lions could’ve done about the result.
3. Injuries are yet to take their toll
Dan Biggar, Rhys Webb and Jared Payne all went off injured for the Lions, but Warren Gatland confirmed afterwards that they’re all likely to play again on the tour. It means that Gatland still has a full squad to pick from ahead of the third match of the tour, and with the All Blacks having a few issues of their own, it could be an area of strength for the tourists.
4. Wasteful finishing to blame once again
Jared Payne was unlucky not to score in the fourth minute, but his team-mates’ wasteful finishing and inability to commit the defence was again to blame. After producing an error-strewn display against the Provincial Barbarians, the Lions again left points out on the pitch, and the lack of a cutting edge is a real concern.
The Lions saw the ball held up four times last week, and with more points wasted in the loss to the Blues, Gatland’s side are showing a lack of understanding and preparation that will be exposed by the All Blacks in a brutal fashion.
5. ‘Rugby chaos’ pays off for Blues
Rob Howley spoke at length about the Lions forming their own form of rugby chaos, but it was the Blues who triumphed in a moment of misunderstanding on the stroke of half-time. Stephen Perofeta’s penalty kick cannoned back off the upright and, with the Lions caught napping, TJ Faiane reacted first to get to the ball before Sonny Bill Williams touched down to score the second try.
This new term was the perfect assessment for how the Lions had come unstuck, though Howley was making his comment in regards to the All Blacks’ ability to capitalise and get over the whitewash when playing immediately after turnovers or loose kicks. The Lions now need to make sure they can at least match the All Blacks, with that likely to go a long way in deciding who triumphs in the Test series.
Belfast Telegraph Digital