Belfast Telegraph

Gatland admits Henderson is still in Lions Test reckoning despite 'stupid' yellow card


By Jonathan Bradley

A superb Iain Henderson was left to rue a "stupid" yellow card that allowed the Hurricanes to claim a dramatic 31-31 draw against the British and Irish Lions yesterday, but Warren Gatland refused to rule the Ulsterman out of Saturday's second Test against the All Blacks.

The visitors had led 31-17, thanks in no small part to Henderson's star turn, but the Super Rugby champions scored twice during his sin-binning.

"It was definitely an enjoyable game to play in - for the 70 minutes I played," said the lock, who was otherwise man-of-the-match.

"The yellow card was frustrating, stupid. Probably a bit of mis-timed rucking, I would describe it as. It was definitely hard for me sitting there for those 10 minutes and watching."

With Henderson, along with his second-row partner Courtney Lawes, looking to stake a claim to be brought into the squad to take on the All Blacks this weekend, his head coach says choosing who is involved will still be a tough decision.

"It's a toss-up in terms of selection," admitted Gatland who suggested Henderson remains in the selection mix.

"Primarily those two guys (Henderson and Lawes) had really strong games to give us some real food for thought.

"It's a position right from the start where we knew we had a lot of strength."

Gatland did, however, seem to place great importance on the yellow card in his immediate post-match reflections.

“The yellow card was a big turning moment in the game,” he said.

“There was some good rugby played by both sides, but that yellow card went from a penalty to us and ended up being a penalty reversed and Henderson off the field for 10 minutes and 14 points. To me, that’s the game in a nutshell.”

Henderson’s fellow Ulsterman Rory Best captained the side for a second time on this tour and said the Lions could have no complaints about referee Romain Poite’s performance.

“It (the yellow card) was obviously touch and go, but when you’re being officiated by a quality referee like Romain Poite and he takes his time and goes to the TMO, you’ve got to trust that the guy has got it right,” Best said of the man who will also take charge of the third Test next weekend.

“The frustrating thing is that we had a penalty advantage there.”

Given Henderson’s all-action performance, Best stressed that no blame could be placed at the 25-year-old’s door.

“Hendy was absolutely fabulous and that small error... you could tell that he was disappointed, but we’ve got to be bigger than a yellow card costing us that many points,” he said.

“It’s very frustrating. They’re Super Rugby champions and are a very good side.

“We’ll look back at the mistakes we made that let them back into it and be frustrated.”

But with this the last of the midweek games, Best noted that it could be a final time in a Lions jersey and was keen to emphasise the positive.

“This is potentially the last game of the tour for a few of us, so we have to look at the positives as well,” he added.

“I cannot fault the effort. Maybe we needed to show more composure and be more clinical at times.”

Belfast Telegraph


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