Lions shut down Crusaders' attacking options

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Lynn McConnell     10 Jun 2017     Getty Images

The Investec Super Rugby leaders were wrapped up well and truly by tenacious Lions defence, but by the same token the Lions were unable to breach the home team's defences well enough to finish the opportunities that were on call.


But apart from some scrum issues there was much to admire in the Lions approach. Under pressure after the midweek loss to the Blues, the Lions shut down one of the most attacking sides in the world.

Few players had the chance to shine in such a closely-fought game but Crusaders centre Jack Goodhue had an outstanding all-round game.

Fresh from being named as injury cover for the All Blacks squad he was solid on the tackle, and he made many, while his ability on the break saw him create the only significant piercing of the Lions line, when slipping between Owen Farrell and replacement Jonathan Sexton in the five-eighths. He kicked ahead to space but wing George Bridge wasn't able to pull the ball in.

Sexton later wove a way through the defence and linked with Ben Te'o and Liam Williams but the ball went to ground, however, the incursion resulted in Farrell's fourth penalty which put the Lions beyond the seven-point margin.

The Lions suffered the misfortune of losing two of their starters in the first quarter. Centre Jonathan Davies had a head knock in a defensive tackle by Crusaders first five-eighths Richie Mo'unga while fullback Stuart Hogg ran into his own halfback Conor Murray's elbow and opened a bad cut. Neither player returned after assessments.
Indifferent play at the lineout, and restarts, proved of concern for the Crusaders and the lineout miscommunications especially denied them key opportunities.

Coping with the rulings of French referee Mathieu Raynal proved difficult for the home side, especially in scrummaging.

The Lions did reduced their own penalty count as was demanded after their loss to the Blues. They also used the ball more through their driving forwards with prop Mako Vunipola carrying often while locks Alun Wyn Jones and George Kruis were workhorses in that area.

No.8 Taulupe Faletau had several bursts with the ball in hand while hooker Jamie George demonstrated why he was selected for the tour with some effective work in the tight.

Halfback Conor Murray was assurance personified behind the scrum and his box kicks were precision executed while his service to Farrell and Sexton was consistently sound.

The Lions also denied the Crusaders the amount of possession they usually enjoy and it told as the home side pushed their opportunities with uncharacteristic mistakes.

Five minutes before half-time, from a penalty lineout drive which resulted in a goalmouth ruck, hooker Codie Taylor drove at the line but a TMO look couldn't confirm the try and it was the Lions who ended the half pummelling the Crusaders line but without effect.

Lions wing Liam Williams almost created a second half chance for replacement fullback Anthony Watson but in fielding a kick ahead Williams was ruled to have knocked the ball on.

The win gave the tour momentum at an important stage with three games left before the first Test in a fortnight.

Scorers: Crusaders 3 (Richard Mo'unga pen) Lions 12 (Owen Farrell 4 pen). HT: 3-9