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Baabaas boss hits brakes on Lions flak

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 3/06/2017 Angelo Risso

The Lions narrowly avoided a humiliating defeat in the first of their 10 matches in New Zealand on Saturday, edging McMillan's Baabaas 13-7 in Whangarei. © Getty Images The Lions narrowly avoided a humiliating defeat in the first of their 10 matches in New Zealand on Saturday, edging McMillan's Baabaas 13-7 in Whangarei. Provincial Barbarians coach Clayton McMillan insists "there's a lot of water to run under the bridge" before the British and Irish Lions can be dismissed as genuine challengers to an all-conquering All Blacks side.

The Lions narrowly avoided a humiliating defeat in the first of their 10 matches in New Zealand on Saturday, edging McMillan's Baabaas 13-7 in Whangarei.

Packed with the best of the home unions, the Lions created little of note against a spirited Baabaas defence and held less possession and territory - despite their opponents being mostly semi-professional players with less than a week's preparation.

The provincial Barbarians, meanwhile, used first-five Bryn Gatland's kicking game to good effect and stuck to the invitational club's champagne-rugby tradition.

The result raises plenty of tough questions ahead of the Lions' matches against each Kiwi Super Rugby franchise, the Maori All Blacks and All Blacks.

But McMillan warned the Test outfit couldn't be written off just yet.

"I'm sure they'll be a little disappointed that maybe they didn't achieve a lot of things they might've expected to happen in the game," McMillan, who coaches Bay of Plenty in the provincial championship, told reporters.

"They've just got off a plane a couple days ago and they'll be a bit rusty - we were an unknown entity, they didn't know too much about us.

"I don't think it's terminal - there's a lot of water to run under the bridge.

"I'm quite sure we'll reflect on the game and we'll see the Lions missed out on a number of opportunities, but I'm just incredibly proud of the scramble defence."

Baabaas captain Sam Anderson-Heather exemplifies, more than most, the gulf that exists between these two teams - with the Otago-based rake set to return to work on Monday morning as a property maintainer, having taken the week off for camp.

He said he couldn't be happier with the display, but admitted to some lingering bitterness that the humble Baabaas couldn't pull off a late, iconic victory.

They were handed a golden opportunity to snatch the win, but wasted their driving maul on the Lions' line with just two minutes remaining.

"Coming in, day one, we didn't really know each other," the 29-year-old said.

"The challenge was just making sure (coaches) put a system and framework around us that gave us an opportunity to get to know each other and build on that.

"It's a common theme in rugby throughout New Zealand and probably the biggest galvanising factor for us as a group - to back each other up, look out for your mate."

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