Lions scrum life out of Maori All Blacks

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Lynn McConnell     17 Jun 2017     Getty Images

It was an emphatic win, achieved by denying the Maori the possession, space and freedom to play the sort of game they are most comfortable with. The Lions denied the Maori the ball with 87 percent of territory in the second half and 83 percent of possession.


For the Lions it was another statement of intent ahead of the Test series which starts next week.

Relentless Lions scrum power, especially out from the Maori All Blacks line, continued their success against the Crusaders and resulted in the most crucial ploy of the game coming down to a penalty try in the 50th minute.

It followed the sin-binning of halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow for a no arms tackle on Lions fullback Leigh Halfpenny which connected with his jaw as he went down in Damian McKenzie's tackle.

From the resulting penalty, the Lions twice set scrums which exposed the Maori fallability in that area and the penalty try was awarded.

Once that was achieved the Lions played with an assurance that they couldn't lose and set about improving their lot.

Going straight back onto attack, they caught wing Rieko Ioane just out from the goal-line and drove him back to earn another five-metre scrum which, after No.8 Taulupe Faletau's first run saw lock Maro Itoje drive under the defence for a second try in three minutes.

That was all after hooker Jamie George had a try denied because of inconclusive evidence that he had grounded the ball over the goal-line.

Opening with a multi-phase series of attacks the Lions were only able to land two early penalty goals, the first of 20 points Halfpenny kicked on the night.

But the Lions approach of kicking to the Maori in the drizzly conditions proved costly when McKenzie brought the ball back and it was wing Nehe Milner-Skudder who kicked a grubber into the 22m area and Halfpenny, centre Jonathan Davies and wing George North managed to fail to control the ball between them and it slipped free.

Maoris No.8 Liam Messam toed it ahead and won the race to the in-goal to score the try.

However, that was a rare show of intent from the home side.

The Lions responded well with centre Jonathan Davies getting into space and making a strong run to the line, but he went on his own rather than feeding North and again, all the Lions had by way of reward was a penalty goal.

However, the concern was that by conceding so many penalties within goal-kicking range the Maori were guilty of indiscipline and it was no surprise referee Jaco Peyper issued a warning about negative play in the 22m area, three minutes into the second half

That was immediately negated when the Lions conceded a scrum feed at a maul and then had a penalty awarded against them when Itoje would not release the ball and McKenzie landed the penalty goal.

Halfpenny put the Lions back in front with his fourth penalty goal to give them a half-time lead of 12-10. However, they had failed to utilise the possession they had. Prop Mako Vunipola was impressive in the tight exchanges and over the ball while pulled off some big tackles. Lock Maro Itoje maintained the momentum he has gained during the tour.

The Irish flankers Peter O'Mahony and Sean O'Brien were involved in some classic exchanges with their opposites, Liam Messam, Akira Ioane, who had a big night on the tackle, and Elliot Dixon and looked to get Faletau running with the ball in hand as often as possible.

But apart from the scrum work, the most impressive feature was the control of half Conor Murray and first five-eighths Johnny Sexton. Murray's kick game was central to the side's tactical approach while Sexton looked to take the ball to the line as often as possible.

Scorers: Maori All Blacks 10 (Liam Messam tries; Damian McKenzie con, pen) British & Irish Lions 32 (Penalty try [seven points], Maro Itoje tries; Leigh Halfpenny con, 6 pen). HT: 10-12