5 Conclusions As The Lions Taste Defeat Once Again Vs The Highlanders
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You won’t find a tour harder than this.
We all knew this was going to be one hell of a tour for the Lions. New Zealand is the home of rugby. They embrace the sport like no other nation, and they will not sit down when you challenge them in their backyard.
The Lions have now lost two from their first four, and once again find themselves in a position where they need a big win on Saturday. While this was very much a midweek team, the players will be disappointed as the game this morning was there for the taking.
Here’s are five conclusions we can come to following the loss.
New Zealand resilience.
This isn’t anything new, but we were served a timely reminder once again this morning that New Zealand rugby teams are incredibly resilient. We’ve seen it over the years with the All Blacks and on a number of occasions in Super Rugby, if you don’t finish a New Zealand rugby team off, it will come back to haunt you. This same Highlanders team scored three late tries earlier in the season in a miraculous comeback against the Cheetahs. You simply have to take every chance you get.
The massive gap between midweek & Test players.
The difference in class between the pencilled in Test players and those who will be left with the midweek team is plain to see. The Lions were immense on Saturday against the Crusaders thanks to some standout performances from the likes of George Kruis, Owen Farrell and Conor Murray. Gatland will no doubt put his strongest foot forward on Saturday against the Maori All Blacks, and it could very well be his Test team that takes the field.
The tries are there.
The Lions grabbed three tries today and this should be seen as a massive positive. Their defence was nowhere near what we saw on Saturday, but it’s good to see the players gelling, and started to convert their chances. Gatland’s men will be disappointed they didn’t get the win, but will take some confidence into the next game having finally got some five pointers on the board.
Sam Warburton should not start the 1st Test.
The Lions captain is nowhere near match fitness. Struggled big time in the first-half, and while he was much better in the second, there are better options in his squad in O’Brien and Tipuric. Gatland said at the beginning of the tour his captain is not guaranteed to start. On the evidence so far, he doesn’t deserve to.
The Lions have to start backing themselves.
Gatland’s men really need to start backing themselves and start kicking into the corner. Penalties will not beat the All Blacks. The decision to kick at goal from inside their own half in the final minutes was a poor one. It was always a risk, even though Daly has slotted them in the past. That ball should have went to the corner and the Lions should have backed themselves to get a try or force a penalty in a better position.