This was more like it. 10,32 to the Lions!!
Like what we mentioned in our match preview, the Lions needed a comprehensive, convincing win to get back on track and to focus the squad. And that’s just what they did.
There are some players from today’s 23 that have played themselves into the first All Blacks test. Players like Ben Te’o, Conor Murray, Johnny Sexton, Leigh Halfpenny, Tadhg Furlong, Sean O’Brien, Maro Itoje, Peter O’Mahony and Taulupe Falatua were sublime and should be expected to tog out next Saturday! I think even though Owen Farrell was injured for this match, I think he’s also a nailed on starter if he can make it back for next week.
Murray continued to flawlessly deliver balls from the ruck to receivers with pin point accuracy, which ensured we had consistent forward momentum throughout. The hang time on his box kicks too are again sublime, giving our runners more than enough time to compete and collect.
Peter O’Mahony captained the team well and occasionally had a word with the ref about some cynical play from the Maori All Blacks in their 22. One such chat ended up with the ref awarding a penalty try in favour of the Lions.
Can Itoje do any wrong? Well, judging by this game, the answer is no. He was flawless again and did all the right things at the right time. Power power power from him throughout the match.
Sexton’s accuracy with his passes was excellent, making it straightforward for runners to break the defensive line on many occasions. He also made a couple of his own line breaks too and almost scored from one of them. Most noticeably was his kick for touch from our own half which landed and touched the Maori’s corner flag, quite literally the perfect kick!
Halfpenny scored 20 points from the tee, a whopping 7 from 7 for him. Tadhg Furlong and Taulupe Falatua showed more of that power and strength with ball in hand and also in the scrum. These two guys are the linchpins of our scrum success throughout this tour so far.
The key areas that provided dominance for the Lions was out set piece. We had 11 lineouts, and 12 scrums, and won every single one of them. We also only conceded 4 penalties during the 80 minutes, this is a massive improvement on previous games during the tour.
The improvements in our game has been most noticeable in attack. Our attacking lines and slick passing are bearing fruit for the first time. Similarly, the pressure that our forwards are putting on our opponents has been getting more and more intense with each game, finally reaching boiling point today against the Maori All Blacks. The home side just couldn’t contain the relentless pressure throughout the game and the Lions benefited constantly from this, firstly from the boot of Halfpenny and then eventually some tries.
The Lions are not quite the finished article just yet but I feel very confident in the group that performed today. It’s heartening to see real progress over the last 2-3 games and I can only see this squad getting better and better. There’s a lot of motivation after all, three big tests against the All Blacks.
In conclusion, job done, happy days!