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Maori boss predicts ding-dong Test battle

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 17/06/2017 Angelo Risso

The verdict is in from the Maori All Blacks - their Test cousins have a job on their hands next week against the British and Irish Lions.

Colin Cooper's troops came off second-best in their tussle with the Lions on Saturday, going down 32-10 in Rotorua after halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow's second-half yellow card swung all momentum towards the Test selection.

Down by just five points at Kerr-Barlow's sin-binning, the Maori conceded two quick tries - both on the back of set pieces - to kill off the contest.

Their ill-discipline at the breakdown also hurt them, conceding 15 penalties and six penalty goals to the reliable boot of Leigh Halfpenny.

Cooper told reporters his side simply couldn't overcome the Lions' territorial dominance, with strategic kicking keeping them pinned back - and didn't have any complaints about Kerr-Barlow's yellow card, saying it was ill-disciplined.

He predicted the Warren Gatland-coached Lions would make life difficult for the All Blacks in next weekend's first Test at Eden Park, but only if they stick to the bustling, up-the-guts style that has worked for them so far.

"I don't think there'll be much change on what we experienced out there - the good scrum, lineout drive and aerial attack," Cooper said.

"We made too many mistakes, particularly under the high ball, and gave them the opportunity inside our half (so) we were under pressure.

"I guess when you go a man down and (they) have kickers like that, and the pressure they were bringing, we had to fight really hard."

Maori skipper Ash Dixon, affiliated to Ngahi Tahinga, agreed with his coach and said the All Blacks would face a genuine battle up front next week.

His side had attempted to go toe-to-toe with the much-vaunted Lions tight five, only to be squeezed out of the contest at scrum and lineout time.

They spent too much time camped in their own defensive end.

"They played to their strengths and that's what you've got to do at this level, so I think next week is going to be really contested," hooker Dixon said.

"We spent too much time in our 22 and it just gassed us."

Cooper also said he hoped New Zealand Rugby would organise an end-of-year tour for the Maori in 2017, with at least three northern match-ups.

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