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Manawatu 6 British & Irish Lions 109

A cricket score it may have been, but had the Lions not comprehensively defeated the local side then many searching questions would have been asked at the post match press conference.

As it was, the Lions put on a bit of a show for their beleaguered supporters, running in an impressive 17 tries in a performance that was just short of the record 18 tries scored by the Lions against Western Australia in 2001.

The Lions had to put in that sort of performance though, as Ian McGeechan rightly pointed out had they recorded a 40 or 50 point stuttering win then the knives would have been sharpened once again.

With Sir Clive Woodward stating that those players on display would be in contention for test selection this week, it was apparent who was putting their hand up for a place from the Lions. Shane Williams laid down a marker inside the first three minutes with a well taken score. He then went on to register four more tries in a stand out performance for the winger.

Several other players also staked a claim including Scottish hooker and captain for the night Gordon Bulloch, his first line out throw was greeted with ironic cheers around the ground but it was bang on the money and our line out was pretty successful all night. A complete contrast to the previous weekends efforts, albeit against a lesser side.

The biggest cheer of the night however was reserved not for those players on the field, but a brave sole who shed his clothes and sprinted onto the field. It takes either a brave or very stupid man to attempt something like that in these winter weather conditions, but it raised a smile from the watching crowd.

It was very much a training run for the Lions ahead of the much sterner test this weekend, but it will raise the confidence of some players that could do with a bit of a boost. Jason Robinson finally looked like he might have remembered what to do with a rugby ball and he was rewarded with a good score, as was Gordon D’Arcy who has also suffered from poor form on the tour.

The opposition were extremely poor and it’s hard to say whether they will take anything at all out of this game. They did register two penalties before half time, but it was hardly an endorsement of New Zealand’s running rugby ethic as they were the only penalties conceded with range and the locals snubbed the chance to go for a try on both occasions.

Well, with a hat full of tries under their belts, the Lions move onwards to Wellington for the series defining second test. I’m not sure of how much benefit the Lions will have taken out of this one sided affair, but I guess at least they have demonstrated they actually do know where the try line is.

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