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Match Reports - Saturday 4 June 2005 - 13:11

Bay Of Plenty 20 British & Irish Lions 34

There seems to be a lot of underestimating going on. The Lions fans underestimated the Bay of Plenty and the Steamers/All Black fans underestimated Lions?

It seem that both sets of supporters thought that their side would walk out onto the park and blow the opposition away and to be fair they both did for twenty minutes each of the first half, but that just cancelled each other out.

Talk had been rife between supporters declaring the contest a one sided affair when in reality both sides have come together with relatively little time to prepare for this game and a massive win for either side was never going to be on the cards. The Lions have the international class players and enjoyed a little more time in camp together than the Steamers, but the Bay are an established NPC side that play together regularly and they had the unusual benefit of their entire country behind them for this match.

In truth, the British & Irish Lions can be pretty happy that they came away with a good win on a tricky first match of the tour, whilst the Bay of Plenty can be pretty pleased with themselves for putting up a stiff fight and keeping it close until 10 minutes before the end.

The game itself was an electrifying start to the campaign with some good running rugby and eight well taken tries. Twenty minutes in and the Lions had stormed into a convincing seventeen point lead thanks to two tries from Josh Lewsey with Mark Cueto adding a third. The visitors then took their boot off the gas and Bay of Plenty tore straight back into them registering a try from Colin Bourke before arguably one of the defining moments of this tour to come.

Lawrence Dallaglio tore into a tackle with his usual gusto but slipped at the vital moment and fractured his ankle in the process ending his tour there and then. The Bay continued to press and fly half Murray Williams showed his class scoring a try that he converted himself and adding a penalty to draw the scores level at half time.

After the break, the Lions changed their game plan and began to kick for territory enabling the forwards to set a platform from which the Lions backs added a further three tries from Shanklin, Peel and finally replacement D’Arcy to seal match.

The talk after the game when assessing the nights performance was one of satisfaction with the win and the performance, however Dallaglio’s injury overshadowed the nights work and it remains to be seen how much his presence will be missed come test match time. It does also go to show how very wrong those one-eyed fans really are. The tour has at last got underway and it is going to be an almighty close battle from the start right through to the very end on July 9th.

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