All the right noises were made by the Lions management that this was the first game of the tour and that it was as important to the side as all the games out in New Zealand, but I don’t think anyone was convinced, not least the fans.
Right from the opening minutes when the new Lions anthem was given it’s first airing, there were many heads being shaken all around me before stifled bursts of laughter broke out. From that point on the entire occasion seemed take on a somewhat unusual tone and although the expectation of a cricket score from the Lions had been widely anticipated beforehand, it was not really any surprise when Argentina marched into a thirteen point lead in as many minutes.
The Lions were always going to be ring rusty, they have after all only been together for six days before the match and forging into a cohesive unit was going to take time. Jonny Wilkinson was always going to be the headline grabber whether for praise or derision, but fortunately for the Lions it was the former and not the latter that came to the fore. It was his break that lead to the try from Ollie Smith to bring the Lions back into contention, his goal kicking was impervious once again and aside from a few kicks out of hand that went astray, his all round game was a cut above the other Lions on show.
Too many Lions however did not do enough to convince the watching world. All Black coach Graham Henry will not be quaking in his boots just yet after some of the performances on display, in particular in the pack. The Pumas have always been noted for their scrummaging ability and they out muscled the Lions pack on a number of occasions before the replacements were put on to shore things up.
A lack of good ball to the back line did not afford them many chances to show what they can do but Ollie Smith had a reasonable game and picked a good line for his try and Geordan Murphy showed flashes of his ability. The overriding feeling though was that there were too many individual performances on display and not enough of the camaraderie and team ethic that marks out successful Lions sides of years gone by.
We cannot be too harsh on the side though, it is only a week the players have been together and to form a cohesive unit in that time was always going to be highly unlikely, but the basic mistakes that were made are going to need to be eradicated pretty quickly if they are to put up a good fight in New Zealand. Bay of Plenty are first up on June 4th and there is much work to do before the Lions take to the field once again.