The British and Irish Lions picked up their second victory of the 2017 tour of New Zealand, and their first against a Super Rugby side, as they downed the Crusaders 12-3 at AMI Stadium in Christchurch. Here are the key talking points to come out of Saturday night’s try-less match.
Timely boost for visitors
After an unconvincing victory over the Provincial Barbarians to open their tour, followed by a loss to New Zealand’s worst Super Rugby franchise in the Blues, the Lions copped a battering in the media heading into Saturday night.
The British and Irish Lions will take massive confidence, belief and encouragement from that win today .. keep the Gatland haters quiet..
— John Hartson (@JohnHartson10) June 10, 2017
While it wasn’t a must-win encounter, the match against the Crusaders was likely to have a defining impact on the rest of the Lions tour.
Having now beaten the best team in Super Rugby, and having done so in fairly convincing fashion, the Lions can now continue to build towards their three-match series against the All Blacks.
“Very much so [it gives us confidence moving forward], and we are confident in the 41 [squad players] not just the 23 [selected players], that’s how we look at it moving forward,” said Lions captain Alun Wyn Jones.
Crusaders 3 British Lions 12: No tries but Lions find feet on tour in confidence-boosting win
— Yorkshire Post Sport (@YPSport) June 10, 2017
Ben Te’o and George North excellent inclusions
Centre Ben Te’o was a force to be reckoned with when he got ball in hand in Christchurch, making a habit of busting the initial tackle and commanding plenty of defensive attention.
The former NRL premiership winner ran for 40 metres, made two clean breaks and beat five defenders across the 80 minutes and looked the most likely Lion to split the defence for much of the game.
— Michael (@M1CHA3L1988) June 10, 2017
Ben Te’o playing himself into a test jersey #lionsnz2017
— Tom (@tomsilk14) June 10, 2017
Welsh winger George North was also a welcome addition to the Lions’ team, putting on a defensive clinic to completely shut down the Crusaders’ attack on his side of the field.
The 25-year-old from the Northampton Saints club in England shut down three Crusaders raids which looked likely to end in a try, bringing plenty of urgency and aggression out wide.
@George_North‘s workrate is unreal in this game.
— Russ Brookes (@RussBrookes1981) June 10, 2017
George North’s defensive work in this second half has been superb. His pressure under high ball also been key to Lions control of territory
— Aled Lloyd (@AledDrums) June 10, 2017
Discipline costs Crusaders
Penalties, in particular at scrum time, killed the Crusaders in the end.
Every single point the Lions scored came via penalties, with the home side committing nine infringements, often at the worst times possible.
Post-match captain Sam Whitelock lamented the high error count.
“We gave them the opportunity to put pressure on… our mistakes really kept them in the game,” he said.
“It’s hard when you give teams the ball through your mistakes, whether it be penalties or knocking the ball on.”
— dabblebet (@dabblebet) June 10, 2017
Lions attack still far from fluid
They scored 12 points, but the ‘BIL’ blew plenty of other chances to add to their haul at AMI Stadium.
On their very first use of the ball the visitors bungled a golden opportunity to score when they created a two-on-one overlap but threw an interception, and it was a trend which continued.
Lions superb defensively, lack a clinical edge in attack. But a step forward and an acid test passed #LionsNZ2017
— mercsport (@FraserMercsport) June 10, 2017
Owen Farrell took a couple of poor attacking options inside the attacking third, while Christiaan Stander dropped the ball cold with the line beckoning in the second half.
“We have probably got to be a bit more clinical on a few of those line breaks, particularly down the left side when we get in the 22,” said Jones.
“If we capitalise on those we will continue to be on the right side of the scoreboard.”
I mentioned their D. The lions attack is way too one dimensional. They won’t beat abs With that attack
— Luke Easton (@3ku1) June 10, 2017
Dream run over for Crusaders
For the first time in 15 games this year, or 1,200 minutes of competitive rugby, the Crusaders know how it feels to lose.
The loss to the Lions ends the men in red and black’s incredible unbeaten run in 2017, although they still have the chance to complete an undefeated season at Super Rugby level.
Crusaders unbeaten all season…until today. The Lions restricting them to 3 points is a statement of intent. They’re here to play.
— Rowd (@RowdenJRSG) June 10, 2017
The Crusaders previously achieved the feat in 2002, back when it was a 13-game season, and they remain in the running to cap off one of the most dominant seasons by a New Zealand sporting franchise.