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New Zealand / British & Irish Lions Test Series – Reflections

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Warren Gatland cements reputation after NZ tour

New Zealand rue missed try opportunities

Two tries to zero in the last weekend but New Zealand will be kicking themselves how they did not add to that tally during the final test match. Ruck clear-out was on point particularly in the opening period and several try scoring opportunities were squandered. The intercept on eleven minutes should have yielded seven points only for heroic Lions defending from Williams and Davies. New Zealand will look to why they were unable to convert at times.

Lions penalty kicking on point

The Eliot Daly long range kick last weekend will go down in the Lions annals; what a long range penalty under such immense pressure. Owen Farrell stepped up to the occasion as well with solid penalty kicking throughout. The penalty kicks were pivotal to the Lions in the second half and rewarded the Lions for their work rate and effort throughout the game, never gave up.

What is offside?

Ken Owens was probably the most relieved British & Irish Lions player at Eden Park after this contest. Immediately after leveling the scores at fifteen, New Zealand’s restart was on point with Read majestically leaping in the air to cause issues for the Lions. The ball came to Owens and in an offside position; thought that was a penalty all day long but Poite thought different. A pivotal call as New Zealand were forced to create a game winning opportunity from scrum time; the move broke down and the British & Irish Lions nearly took full advantage.

Jordie Barrett – A star is born

Beauden Barrett is the main New Zealand play-maker at ten but his brother Jordie provided everyone with ample evidence that he will be a rugby superstar. A superb performance. His leap in the lead-up to the New Zealand opening try belied his lack of international caps and his attacking line when coming into the line for the second try was very Christian Cullen style. Steve Hansen will look at the cameo with quiet satisfaction.

New Zealand Rugby – The Blueprint

If the British & Irish Lions tour has proved anything, it is that a tour of New Zealand is the ultimate challenge for any side. The level of competition faced by the Lions in this tour has being immense and the decision of New Zealand national team management to throw their national players into the various Lions fixtures added to the tour. Abrasive, physical games but the New Zealand management of the rugby ball with immense execution of the fundamentals coupled with an emphasis on mobility and evading the tackle rather engaging it is something that NH teams should look at and make necessary adjustments.

NH vs. SH Officiating

If there was an issue on the tour, it was the inconsistent nature of officiating from referees from Northern / Southern Hemisphere. Garces and Poite were more observant in the breakdown area where Jaco Peyper allowed the breakdown area to become a mess. The Sonny Bill Williams incident in the second test was the pivotal moment in the series. Garces was spot on in his assessment but Peyper had a different viewpoint. The offside interpretation from officiating crews during the tour varied widely. Officiating powers that be need to meet and improve for the sake of the game.

Lions Stars have emerged

Several British & Irish Lions emerge from this tour with their reputations enhanced. Furlong, George, Itoje, O’Brien, Murray, Farrell, Watson, Daly and Williams were standouts and then you have the timely cameos of the likes of O’Mahoney, Sinckler, Stander, Henderson and Warburton on the tour. Other players have struggled for form and game minutes. Justin Tipuric, Rory Best, Dan Coles and Joe Marler come to mind in this regard. A tour which started with mixed result ends in a somewhat satisfying outcome. The future of the tour is secured albeit the series was drawn. The final quarter of the final test was immense and anyone who thought that the Lions tour was finished should think again.