Gatland praises defence as Lions down Crusaders

Lynette Rowe
June 21, 2017

Warren Gatland hit back at his critics after the British and Irish Lions ground past the Crusaders 12-3 to ignite their New Zealand tour.

Owen Farrell booted all the points as the Lions inflicted the Crusaders' first defeat this season, restricting a side boasting an average 37 points per match down to just a solitary penalty.

England centre Joseph failed to cut loose in the laboured 13-7 tour-opening win over the Provincial Barbarians but coach Farrell tipped the Bath star to be a different proposition today, now jet lag is no factor.

There has been a lot of criticism: people had written the tour off after two matches.

In the second half, Liam Williams dropped a hard pass metres short of the corner post and was also guilty, along with CJ Stander, of knocking the ball on when the Crusaders were in disarray.

"I think he's got some bonuses out of it that he probably didn't expect with Jonathan Davies coming on and seeing [Owen] Farrell and [Johnny] Sexton work together".

Webb will keep the back row interested at the breakdown as he likes a snipe close to the ruck, while the kicking games of Biggar and Payne should allow the Lions to dictate territory and apply pressure that way.

Speaking on Radio Live New Zealand following the game, Graham Henry hailed Murray as the best scrum-half in the world.

But it was the massive performance by the Lions in the defense that decided the match and will have brought most pleasure to the Lions. They are so obsessed with their own game that they forget other teams exist.

The tourists played with a mixture of power and precision in a try-less affair to eclipse a Crusaders side who are top of the Super Rugby ladder with a ideal 14-win record.

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"Our game management improved from some key individuals and Conor was definitely one of them". The Crusaders let themselves down with poor handling in slippery conditions and a lack of discipline.

Two weeks out from the first Test, Warren Gatland's men played with the intensity they'll need against the All Blacks.

That's the beauty of rugby, that not all teams play the same.

"We're hoping he'll be okay but we're just getting someone more qualified than me to assess that".

The Crusaders appeared to be annoyed with referee Mathieu Raynal's handling of the scrum engagement laws, but Gatland rejected those concerns and insisted the Lions have prepared to cope with every style of officiating. "I was pleased with that and we will continue to do that".

For that reason, Lions defence coach Andy Farrell has plenty to be happy about.

Farrell made the halftime lead 9-3 with a penalty 10 minutes from the break.

The big problem for the Lions remained their inability to finish. But Goodhue's kick to the left flank was knocked on by winger George Bridge.

The home support, one sensed, had come to see the in-form Super Rugby side, with nine All Blacks in their squad, firmly put the Lions in their place, and in doing so deliver a further blow to the tourists' confidence ahead of the Test series.

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