Jim Kayes has been covering rugby since the late 1990s across print/online, radio and television with The Dominion Post, Stuff.co.nz, TV3 and Newshub, Radio Live and Radio Sport. He's been to five World Cups, covered almost 200 All Blacks Tests and was on safari with the Lions when the British and Irish side last toured New Zealand, in 2005.Read more exclusive columns
OPINION : Learnings for both the Lions and All Blacks in Blues win
allblacks.com 08 Jun 2017 Getty Images
Two-test wing Rieko Ioane was immense. He scored a try and might have had two more if not for a stray foot in touch and a slightly forward pass as he tormented Jack Nowell on the wing. Ioane is an outside chance to make the All Blacks squad only because there are so many contenders for the back three spots. But he can play midfield too and with so many of Steve Hansen’s men coming back from injuries he could be included in what is expected to be a lengthy list of cover players, if not the official 33.
No8 Steven Luatua may also have played his way into the squad. He was brutal with the ball and on attack and it was his Williams-like off load that put Sonny Bill into space before Williams found replacement first five Ihaia West for the match winning try.
Blues coach Tana Umaga said Williams' performance reflected his desire to play for the All Blacks after he opted to play sevens last year and ruptured his achilles at the Rio Olympics.
"Sonny is still coming back from 18 months away from the game and he's had a stop start season for us," Umaga said. "Every week he has gotten better and better.
It shows the hunger he has got to play at the top level. It's pleasing for us and must be pleasing for the All Blacks. It's a conundrum for them who they are going to pick."
Gatland feigned a lack of interest in who Hansen will name in his squad of 33, perhaps because he knows whoever is picked will be a handful.
Coming off the uninspiring win against the provincial Barbarians in their opening match, this was not the performance the Lions needed, especially as they have the Crusaders in just three days. Remember, the Blues are the bottom team in the New Zealand conference in Super Rugby; the Crusaders are unbeaten. They also have an All Blacks tight five to call on.
As we saw in Whangarei in the first match, the Lions struggled to cope with the pace of the match and the speed in which the Blues were able to counter attack. And they kicked a lot to the Blues. Sure it can be effective when the chase is good, but it is still one heck of a risk to kick so much to New Zealand teams who like to run the ball back.
While the Lions lost, some stood out, notably halfback Rhys Webb, lock Courtney Lawes and No8 CJ Stander who scored the Lions first try. The Lions Kiwi centre Jared Payne also played well and with a dose of luck could have scored twice in the first seven minutes in what ultimately proved to be a sorry return to Auckland for the former Blues player. He left the field injured and his new team lost.
Umaga offered the Lions some hope on their tough tour - provided they keep improving. "They will have targeted certain games where they want success and that's sure to be the Tests. If they get success in the Tests I'm sure everyone will forget what they did in the midweek games."