Monday 19 March 2018 / 08:14 AM


The Hurricanes put together a storming second half to secure a 31-31 draw with the British and Irish Lions in the last mid-week match of the 2017 tour. Here’s how we saw the key talking points from the clash at Westpac Stadium in Wellington.

Hurricanes just wouldn’t quit

From the jaws of defeat the Hurricanes rescued a 31-all draw in Wellington.

Down 31-15 with 15 minutes left, the hosts had little right to come back into the match, but showed enormous character to do so, albeit helped along by playing 10 minutes late in the piece against 14 men.

It seemed regardless what happened at Westpac Stadium, or how in control the Lions appeared to the naked eye, the ‘Canes just kept doing enough to remain within sniffing distance, and in the end it counted when they were able to strike a couple of hefty blows inside the final 15.

In some respects it wasn’t surprising, with the Hurricanes showing themselves on a number of occasions this year to be capable of late surges, with their attack appearing to age like a fine wine in the context of a match.

Gatland decision to come under questioning

With his side down to 14 men for 10 of the final 15 minutes, and limping under the pressure of a resurgent Hurricanes side, Lions coach Warren Gatland resisted going to his bench.

Gatland made only two substitutions the whole match, bringing on back Leigh Halfpenny while giving lock Courtney Lawes an early shower in exchange for George Kruis.

The reluctance to introduce new blood in the closing exchanges raised plenty of eyebrows, and angered many Lions supporters on social media, who questioned Gatland’s game awareness.

It appeared the Lions were in desperate need of some energy and fresh legs, but it didn’t come.

Foul-play theories take a turn

This week so much of the discourse revolved around Gatland’s criticism of the All Blacks’ apparent targeting of Conor Murray in the opening Test at Eden Park.

While Gatland insinuated New Zealand’s tactics had been intentional on that occasion, his All Blacks counterpart may have an argument of his own to put forward after the Lions’ treatment of current AB’s squad member Jordie Barrett on Tuesday night.

The tourists had Iain Henderson sent to the bin for a lifting tackle which drove Barrett into the turf late in the match, and were perhaps lucky he was shown only a yellow rather than red.

Jonathan Joseph escaped without punishment for his role in the dangerous tackle, which thankfully didn’t result in an injury to Barrett.

Much interest will surround how New Zealand reacts to the incident in comparison to how Gatland reacted to his concerns after last weekend.

Laumape shows both sides

In 80 minutes in Wellington Ngani Laumape managed to show both why he deserves to be in the All Blacks squad, but why he shouldn’t get a run in a Test just yet.

At times he was brilliant, running the ball hard and straight to cause issue after issue for the Lions, in particular terrorising Dan Biggar with some punishing carries.

The former New Zealand Warrior finished his try well and made a dominant run which set the platform for Vaea Fifita’s five-pointer in the 71st minute.

But it wasn’t all good from the 24-year-old, who also showed a lack of rugby maturity at crucial times.

He was penalised for an unnecessary neck roll with minutes remaining, which cost his side a valuable chance at a contested possession metres out from their try-line while scores were tied.

In the 81st minute he also lost possession with a loose carry, allowing the Lions to recover the ball and very, very nearly kick a match-winning field goal.

It was hardly a case of Laumape showing his best and worst as a player, and overall he had a good game, but it was enough to display why he probably doesn’t have what it takes to be an All Black just yet.

Headaches at lock

Food for thought for Gatland ahead of the second Test against the All Blacks, after both Courtney Lawes and Iain Henderson starred in the second row.

Both showed deft hands and got through their work with efficiency, with Henderson arguably the best on park for the visiting team, running 13 times for 48 metres, while he came close to scoring a try.

His night had a bitter end after he was binned for his role in the ugly tackle on Barrett, but overall Henderson was immense for the men in red. Lawes meanwhile contributed 10 runs.

While the mid-week pair were very good, it would be a tough for Gatland to make changes to the Test second row, with Maro Itoje and George Kruis both in solid form right now.

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About the author

Corey Rosser

One of CBS’s newest contributors, Te Aroha product Corey is the New Zealand correspondent for, the editor for the excellent new site Kiwi League Central, and a guru of the local Auckland rugby league scene.

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