Gatland: Lions took a step back against Highlanders

Lynette Rowe
June 14, 2017

Tour awareness - Wherever the Lions have gone on this trip to New Zealand so far people have been aware of their presence - but in Dunedin that awareness went up another level.

The British and Irish Lions suffered the second defeat of their 2017 tour of New Zealand after being edged out 23-22 in dramatic circumstances by the Highlanders in Dunedin on Tuesday (13 June).

How did the Lions lose, demanded the Telegraph: "In the final reckoning because they didn't take their chances, failed to keep their discipline and faded as the game went on".

And helped by the flawless conditions under the Forsyth Barr Stadium's roof, they did that adding three tries their tour tally.

The tries came this time, three in total through Jonathan Joseph, Tommy Seymour and Sam Warburton, but a nine point lead was snatched away by a dogged Highlanders team.

Marty Banks won the game for the home side when he slotted a 74th minute penalty, however, two powerful scrums from their replacement front rowers had given them the field position for the flyhalf to seal the opportunity. "The big (lesson) is that New Zealand sides play for 80 minutes".

The Lions' next tour match is against the Maori All Blacks in Rotorua on Saturday, with the first Test in Auckland a week later. And that, from the BBC online, just about summed it up across the back pages after the Lions lost to the Highlanders by the slenderest of margins.

"We gave away a line-out for their try after having cleared our lines", head coach Warren Gatland said.

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The two sides traded penalties in the opening exchanges with Dan Biggar cancelling out Lima Sopoaga on 17 minutes.

Dazzling footwork kept Highlanders defenders occupied and blistering pace for first Lions try, although he must tighten up his defence if he is to be a Test starter. Northampton's England lock Lawes departed with suspected concussion, replaced by Alun Wyn Jones.

All Blacks wing Waisake Naholo was a handful all night for the Lions as he warmed up for the test series and he crashed through Courtney Lawes to score on 26 minutes. When the Highlanders brought it down irregularly, Webb went wide and, after fine-interplay from CJ Stander and Biggar, Joseph was unleashed down his channel.

With Biggar nailing the conversion it was all square at the break and Seymour stretched the lead when he snuffled out Sopoaga's kick straight after half-time.

Centre Joseph's first-half try showed the Lions can execute clinically in attack.

The Lions had the flawless start to the second half as Seymour read a Sopoaga cross-field kick to perfection and the Scotland worldwide charged through for the Lions' second try. "That was something we tried to rectify going into the second half and I thought when we got quality ball on the front foot that's when we looked unsafe". They had a dominant set-piece in the scrum and they got a couple of penalties and got into our half.

But the fly-half made a mess of the exit strategy from the restart which put his side under huge pressure and handed the Lions with a scrum five metres from the try line.

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