Lions survive the Hurricane in high scoring midweek game

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In the final midweek game of the 2017 tour, it was your typical ‘game of two halves’. A fired-up British and Irish Lions team taking the early lead, only for the barnstorming home side to come within a whisker of stealing a win. A thrilling 31-31 draw was a close-run-thing, as the Lions survive the Hurricane.

Warren Gatland breathed a big sigh of relief as his Lions tamed the 2016 Super Rugby Hurricanes in a high scoring game at Westpac Stadium. But as in any drawn game, with no winners and losers, the crowd were in a flux – an enjoyable game with seven tries scored…..but still, no clear winners.

Hurricanes 31 – Tries: Vaea Fifita, Ngani Laumape, Wes Goosen, Callum Gibbons; Conversion: Jordie Barrett (4); Penalty: Barrett

British and Irish Lions 31 – Tries: Tommy Seymour (2), George North; Cons: Dan Biggar (2); Penalties: Biggar (4)


Lions survive the Hurricane in high scoring midweek game

The Lions’ midweek side forced the Hurricanes to chase the game – and the Super Rugby franchise; while leaving it late, came charging on once their substitutions were made. That coincided with an yellow card to Iain Henderson [for a tip tackle].

The late surge almost overwhelmed the visitors. Their tame reply, possibly surprised by the enthusiasm shown by the home side, that it brought the ‘Canes fans to their feet. A sensational end to the game, but if only for an outright result – possibly an appropriate outcome for a part time ‘Cricket ground’ though.

Vaea Fifita of the Hurricanes celebrates after scoring a try during the match between the Hurricanes and the British & Irish Lions at Westpac Stadium on June 27, 2017 in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

“It’s a little bit frustrating, as we thought we had good control. With their intercept try, we probably let ourselves down,” was captain Brad Shields reaction post game.

Visitors Display Both Good and Bad

But it wasn’t for the lack of trying. Once the discipline issues had been sorted out, the Hurricanes threatened to chase down the big halftime deficit. The Lions remained composed, and brave in defence. Dan Biggar survived a nasty concussion scare trying to stop Ngani Laumape scoring, copping an elbow to the face for his efforts.

Discipline cost the Hurricanes in a match with penalty count that favoured the visitors early. The decision-making of some senior Hurricanes men must be questioned, and it ultimately became a costly factor just as the tide was beginning to turn on the scoreboard.

In the end, the Hurricanes were awarded a yellow card for their lack of discipline, to halfback Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi. It gave the Lions an easy penalty, but crucially a second try for Tommy Seymour. That opened a small lead, at 17-31.

While they held a superiority for large periods, the coaches box will have been heaving after their own yellow card. That resulted in 14 points being given away, and the lead. Fortunate that the ball did not roll entirely the home sides way, the relief was obvious on players faces by the matches end.

Hurricanes Players Demonstrate Their Championship Credentials

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen had released four of his wider training squad members to the Hurricanes – Julian Savea, Ngani Laumape, Vaea Fifita and Jordie Barrett. While it benefited the home side, it may have been more opportunity for those men to push for test selection.

And while the try scorers and penalty takers will be proud of their hit-out, the sides might both feel slightly deflated, as the Lions survive the Hurricane.

For some, the overall feeling of the match was as memorable. From the feeling of all the visiting Lions supporters, to the ‘full house’ sign being hung on the Stadium gate. But for any ‘Canes fan, the exchange prior to the match kickoff; with squad captain Dane Coles passing a Korowai (cloak) to Sam Warburton, might have brought a lump to the throat. That is what the Lions tour brings, a flashlight on the values of the game: respect, open arms and an appreciation of the others values.

Next Stop, Must Win Second Test Against All Blacks

With all opportunities for match practice now gone, the only remaining matches on tour are the final two tests against the All Blacks. And the onus now is on the Lions to repair the scoreline, after being checked by the home team last Saturday.

The All Blacks will have sat easily this week, used to the ascendancy role. They are leading on all fronts: tries scored, kick percentage, set piece and in confidence. For the last 6 years since 2011, the wave has surged them well above all others. Now the British and Irish Lions must pull together, if they believe they can displace the World Champions.

How can they? In one way, they must throw everything at them. it might be a simple motive, but their fans would encourage this. While that is an ambitious goal, the side have not been prepared well enough. It is not in their nature.

The Lions must play ‘to tune’. To go away from the tough style would ultimately collapse what chance they do have. And it will surely be a huge collision. Still looked at as one of the biggest events, and no doubt, the sporting world will take a breath from the Americas Cup this Saturday night.

New Zealand v British and Irish Lions, 7:35pm (NZT ) Westpac Stadium, Wellington


“Main photo credit”