It’s difficult not to label this Lions side as the midweek team but it is clear that this side is being used to try out those players who are less likely to make the grade into the test team in seventeen days time.
It is clear that those players who want to break through into the test team need to stand up and be counted and that’s exactly what a few players did today. On the other hand though, there were also a handful of players who may well have played themselves out of contention.
The game was billed as a far stiffer contest for the Lions than previously seen on tour, not just because the opposition were stronger than previous opponents Bay of Plenty, but also because the side was formed of those players perceived to be less likely to break through into the test team.
The Lions however played a tactical and controlled match with the big plus points coming from the much improved defensive organisation which was severely tested in the first fifty minutes and a handful of encouraging individual performances, particularly from the two half backs.
Hodgson’s man of the match performance was justly deserved. He ran the game with an exceptional awareness of those around him and contributed significantly to the defensive effort when the Lions were under the cosh. He was greatly helped by the excellent service from Cusiter whose only mistake was to unfortunately result in the first try for Taranaki flanker Chris Masoe.
Michael Owen made amends for his poor display in Cardiff putting in a good share of tackles alongside captain for the night Martin Corry and Murphy too displayed flashes of his attacking talent with two well worked tries.
Taranaki were not without their heroes too with captain Paul Tito leading from the front and engaging Danny Grewcock in a bit of handbags which due to the fortuitous positioning of the officials resulted in neither man facing further punishment. Unsurprisingly Grewcock was probably the luckier of the two men.
In the second half the Lions superior fitness and international class showed through and against a tiring home side they took advantage with a try from captain Corry. Andrew Hore took his place on the bench after he was binned for persistent infringing by the hosts and the Lions made the game safe with a couple of well worked tries from Horgan and Murphy. Murphy again crossed the whitewash after 71 minutes before Brendan Watts ended the game with a well deserved score at the final whistle.
All attentions now turn to the unofficial fourth test match on Saturday against the Maori in Hamilton and whilst the majority of the players on show today are unlikely to feature, following an improved performance from the Lions once again today they will need to keep up the momentum leading up to the tests and the best way to do that is with another winning performance.