Otago v British & Irish Lions
Saturday 18th June 2005
KO: 7.10pm local time (8.10am BST)
Referee: Lyndon Bray (NZ)
Touchjudges: Kelvin Deaker (NZ), Paul Honiss (NZ)
Television Official: Paddy O’Brien (NZ)
Getting back to winning ways was the objective on Saturday and that was duly achieved, continuing that improvement however is another matter.
With a lot of the big guns rested from the side to face Otago on Saturday, the emphasis will certainly be on the boys on the field to play their way into the test team. This could be the last opportunity for some to show what they can do on the field and they will be desperate to put on a good showing for Woodward and his cohorts.
This Otago side is by no means a minnow side. They boast a proud record against the Lions, not least in the 37 – 24 victory they dished out to the ’93 Lions twelve years ago. Two of the key men on the field for Otago will be the half back pairing of Nick Evans and Danny Lee.
Both men are on the fringes of All Black selection and possess a wealth of talent that will keep Charlie Hodgson and Chris Cusiter on thier toes. If the two Lions can keep the Otago boys quiet then they will harbour strong claims for those prized test match jerseys.
Josh Blackie is another Otago man in direct opposition with a key open position for the Lions and it will be an ideal opportunity for Martyn Williams to display his talents against the highly rated Blackie if only his pack can support him.
All this said though, the Lions can’t have had much better a team talk than that delivered to them by Otago’s head coach Wayne Graham so they should be full of motivation when the time comes on Saturday to step out onto the field.
Graham’s assertations that the Lions have been trying to influence the referee’s will not have gone unnoticed in the Lions camp and his further musings about their tactics of disrupting the oppositions ball at scrum time and at the breakdown will not impress the watching Sir Clive Woodward either.
All in all though, this shaping up to be a classic Lions encounter with much resting on the outcome for all parties involved. Otago are keen to matain an excellent record against the Lions, whilst the boys in red will be going hell for leather to try and press their claims for test match selection.
Our Lions-Tour.com prediction should see the Lions grab another win but only just. The Lions will take the result but the chances of there being any champagne rugby on show is slim to none. The poor conditions will once again hamper creativity of the back lines of the two sides and the win will be borne out of doggedness of the visiting side more than anything else. The Lions to win by 5 points.