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Blues 22 British & Irish Lions 16

Rieko Ioane

The British & Irish Lions have lost their second match of the tour of New Zealand with a 22-16 loss to the Blues in Auckland.

The critical score came just five minutes before the end of the game from Ihaia West when the Lions had just taken the lead for the first time in the match just moments before.  With the Lions in the ascendency winning a series of crucial penalties in the set piece, they looked like they had taken a decisive lead with Leigh Halfpenny’s long range penalty.

However, Johnny Sexton’s decision to kick the up and under and not only hand possession back to the Blues, but play to their strength by giving them ball in open play with a broken field was crucial and damning.  The Blues took the opportunity with relish with Sonny Bill Williams offloading to West putting him through to score the winning try.

The Blues had earlier scored tries from the dangerous Rieko Ioane and Williams on the stroke of half time with both men putting their hands up for a test jersey on the 24th June.

The sole reply for the Lions came from CJ Stander who rumbled over following a series of pressure moments from the forwards late in the first half, but this was a result to forget for the Lions who will be hoping to build on a good platform in the forwards and to iron out some of the costly mistakes.

British & Irish Lions Head Coach Warren Gatland said “It was a close game and what hurt us was the number of penalties we gave away.  We need to look at that.  It’s an area we will hopefully address over the next few days.  We played some positive stuff, you’ve got to create some momentum and we lost that with the penalties we gave away.

“We were a little unlucky and we can be positive about a lot of things and we have to focus on the things we can be positive about.  The important thing is that we are improving.

“There’s not going to be a lot of difference between the Super Rugby sides and the All Blacks, but we are expecting to see an improvement between now and Saturday.  It’s going to give us great preparation for the All Blacks.  This is brilliant preparation for the next games and going into the first test.”

Next up on the tour for the Lions is the Crusaders in Christchurch on Saturday.  The match will represent a much stiffer test than this Blues team.  The Blues finished the Super Rugby season as the bottoms team of the Kiwi Super Rugby sides and the Crusaders particularly are finishing the strongest.  They are also expecting to have their All Blacks available and pushing for a place in the test team so the step up in opposition levels will certainly be cause for alarm.

The Crusaders take on British & Irish Lions on Saturday 10th June at 7.35am (8.35am UK time) in Christchurch.

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