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Lions start tour with dour Barbarians win

NZN 3/06/2017 Angelo Risso

British and Irish Lions boss Warren Gatland has listed jetlag, new combinations, wastefulness and the depth of Kiwi rugby as reasons for his side's underwhelming start to their 10-match tour of New Zealand.

The Test selection cast significant doubts over their competitiveness on Kiwi soil, managing only a 13-7 win on Saturday against a semi-professional provincial Barbarians outfit.

It was hard to tell which side was made up of Test stars and regulars at times, as the Barbarians secured the most possession and territory - despite spending just a week together in camp before the Whangarei match.

The Lions struggled to create anything of note through first-five Johnny Sexton and failed to dominate the set-piece, pinching just two lineouts from 19.

Both sides managed a single try in Northland, but a pair of penalty goals to Sexton and halfback Greig Laidlaw eventually took the Lions over the line.

They'll need urgent improvement - in every facet of the game - for any hope of victory over the Super Rugby sides, let alone the All Blacks.

On the bright side for Gatland, all of his players have come out of the match unscathed, barring minor back spasms for Ross Moriarty and Kyle Sinckler.

"It was a tough match and so we've learned a lot tonight in terms of how tough it is to come to New Zealand, how motivated the teams are going to be," Gatland said.

"There's a massive amount of depth in New Zealand rugby, and not always a lot of difference between a lot of those players out there, knocking on the door.

"We know how tough the next few weeks are going to be and, as I said, getting that game under our belt today is going to hold us in good stead going forward."

The Barbarians enjoyed much of the ball in an inauspicious opening half, as a rusty Lions outfit - who arrived just three days ago in New Zealand - struggled to nail the basics.

Burly English midfielders Jonathan Joseph and Ben Te'o were mostly anonymous, running less than 40 first-half metres combined, while first-five Sexton struggled.

Opposite number Bryn Gatland used every kicking trick in the book - from grubbers to cross-field lobs, chips and bombs - to keep his side on the ascendancy, and played a major role as Sam Anderson-Heather crashed over in the 22nd minute.

Down 7-3 at the break, the Lions came out with renewed energy, going in front within 13 minutes.

A Laidlaw penalty goal put them within one point, before substitute first-five Owen Farrell - on for a subdued Sexton - put Watson over on the right edge.

Gatland said it was too soon to make a decision on his Test No.10, despite Sexton's poor display and Farrell's comparative energy from the bench.

He said he wouldn't write off the match in his planning, but admitted the side had made both collective and individual errors, particularly in attack.

They'll need to quickly rectify those errors to defeat the Blues on Wednesday.

"These guys arrived on Wednesday and were still recovering from the travel. We know some of the players in the squad still haven't got into regular sleep patterns," Gatland said.

"We can go away knowing there's a number of things to work on."

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