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It's crucial we develop a ruthless streak, warns Best

 

By Jonathan Bradley

If the British and Irish Lions are to have any hope of an historic series victory over the All Blacks, they must develop a ruthless streak according to Ulster's Rory Best.

The home nations collective lost their second game in four attempts against the Highlanders yesterday, despite outscoring their opponents by three scores to two and holding a late lead.

And with the first Test against the back-to-back World champions now just 10 days away, the Ireland skipper says they must quickly learn the lessons of their latest defeat.

"It's that ruthlessness," he said of what was missing in Dunedin yesterday.

"If we get to Saturday or the following Tuesday, or Saturday week more importantly, and we go 22-13 up and we don't put a foot on the throat, that is what New Zealand teams are good at.

"When the game breaks up and you give them a chance back in, you give them half a sniff and they take it.

"I think if we're 22-13 up with 20 minutes left to play in 10 days' time, that's a point where you have got to get really strong, really exit, and probably you have to be more clued in than at any other time in the game because that is when they are the most dangerous, whenever you feel you are out of sight of them."

Having beaten Super Rugby table toppers the Crusaders last weekend, Warren Gatland's men seemed to be building real momentum in the toughest of all tours when they led by nine points with 20 minutes to go yesterday, but they were not able to add any more points to their tally.

With a second winnable game having slipped away - the Lions could have beaten the Blues last week with better execution - Best is all too aware that such missed opportunities will not go unpunished against the All Blacks in Eden Park next weekend.

"We had a couple of chances to exit at 22-13 and we didn't take any of them," he said. "A couple of unforced errors and we let them back in and then we let the crowd become a factor because we had done a lot at the start of the second half to silence the crowd and they got momentum.

"When you give good sides, good players momentum, there is a good chance they are going to take it and they did so. For us, we just weren't ruthless enough and that's ultimately where we are at with that.

"Whatever level you play at, the penalty count realistically you need to be below 10 to have a good chance of winning the game and we didn't get that.

"We're disappointed again; we're going to have to take a look at why.

"It's a bit of a hiccup for us. The boys on Saturday laid down a marker (by beating the Crusaders) and we wanted to pick that up.

"We put ourselves in a position to really take a hold of it and that's probably the biggest disappointment, alongside losing the game, that we let it slip.

"We had enough class on the pitch to see that game off and in fact go on and take a real stranglehold of it. It's disappointing for the whole squad.

"I think we could be a bit smarter in playing the ref - obviously paint a better picture at the scrum and don't get penalised.

"We have to play the ref and the conditions and take the sting out of their momentum."

Belfast Telegraph

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