You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Gatland ups niggle as Lions win

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 5 days ago Angelo Risso

The All Blacks and British and Irish Lions have both officially shown their hands, securing clinical victories within 24 hours as they gear up for next Saturday's blockbuster first Test at Eden Park.

Following on from the All Blacks' 78-0 demolition of Samoa, the Lions turned the second-half screws on Saturday to down the Maori All Blacks 32-10.

Holding a slender 15-10 lead early in the second half, the Lions were handed a major shot in the arm through the controversial sin-binning of Maori halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow - who hit a slipping Leigh Halfpenny high with his shoulder.

Down a man, the Maori struggled to compete with the Lions' set-piece and were 29-10 behind when Kerr-Barlow returned to the field 10 minutes later.

The Lions surprised no one with their tactics for the Rotorua encounter, sticking to the brawny "Warrenball" style that served them so well against the Crusaders - even allowing for an improved performance from Johnny Sexton.

The unerring Halfpenny put away six penalty goals, with a penalty try and a Maro Itoje close-range effort during Kerr-Barlow's absence enough for victory.

Coach Warren Gatland labelled the match another step in the right direction for Saturday's opening Kiwi Test - and took his first shot in anger at All Blacks boss Steve Hansen, labelling him "worried" about the Lions' potential.

Hansen spent part of his side's build-up to the Samoa clash goading Gatland on his side's 'dull' style and correctly predicting he'd bring in new players.

Welshmen Cory Hill, Kristian Dacey, Gareth Davis and Tomas Francis joined the side on Saturday. Scots Allan Dell and Finn Russell will link up with the team on Sunday in Hamilton - all to play as reserves in mid-week matches.

"Normally, he's pretty calm and stuff - he's been doing a lot of press conferences in the last couple of weeks, (and) I can only take that as a sign of respect in that, potentially, he's a little bit worried," Gatland told reporters.

"Some of the stuff people have been saying puts a bit of a dampener on the tour - but that's professional sport now - you've got to live with that.

"It's not anything that's been worrying for us (and) all I've taken from it is, you know, maybe he's a little more worried than he normally is."

Regardless of Gatland's fighting talk, Hansen would have seen nothing unexpected from the Lions, who outmuscled the Maori at the set-piece and kicked strategically via five-eighth Sexton and Conor Murray at the base of the ruck.

The Maori ran the ball with less abandon than expected and couldn't get their attack going, bar a breakaway try for Liam Messam.

Gatland scoffed at suggestions his side were divided on Test and non-Test grounds, insisting they were as united as ever.

They move on to Hamilton to play the Chiefs on Tuesday, with a squad made up mostly of players who will skip the All Blacks game.

"I look back at 2013 and we made, between the first and third Tests, nine different selections, so the players who - for whatever reason - may not be involved in the first Test, they have to stay alive - they have to stay in it," Gatland said.

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon