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Otago 19 British & Irish Lions 30

Well the tour is very much on track. With the exception of the Maori match, the Lions performances have been improving game by game and some individuals are finally beginning to stand up and be counted.

The game against Wellington mid week was vital to get the winning momentum going again and it was carried over into this match as the players raised their game and fought out a good battle emerging victorious at the end of it.

Only two weeks ago Ryan Jones was displaying his talent in the Wales match against the USA in Hartford with no chance of playing for the Lions let alone getting anywhere near the test team and suddenly it has all changed.

Jones’ performance against Otago was worthy of a Lions test place and it may now be the case that he will be involved in some capacity a week today. Jones’ all round game was superb and he must surely be putting pressure on Corry and Owen as the main contenders for the number eight shirt.

Elsewhere on the field, the back line enjoyed more freedom to attack from the solid platform delivered by the pack and it resulted in a handful of well worked scores. Shane Williams’ try was particularly well taken, but the credit for getting him into that situation must go to all of the team not just the finisher himself, the handling was good, support in numbers good and the move error free, something that has been few and far between on this tour.

Will Greenwood’s opportunities have been limited on the tour and he had seemed destined to be limited to mid-week action for the Lions, but he put in a fine performance in this match that was rewarded with his try from the cross-field kick by Charlie Hodgson.

Chris Cusiter again gave a performance worthy of a test place in its own right but with Peel very much in the driving seat, it may earn Cusiter a bench spot next weekend. The Scot’s performances on tour have been extremely impressive and today’s game was yet another fine example of the improvements he has made in such a short space of time. His passing was clean and crisp from the base and his option taking and awareness have been improving too. It is unfortunate for him to have an in form Dwayne Peel in front of him otherwise I think he would be starting next Saturday instead of the Welshman.

Well, now it all starts! From here on in it’s all about the test series. There may be the small matter of the game in Southland on Tuesday to contend with but it is vital that those selected for the game put their disappointments about missing out on test selection aside and go out on Tuesday and convincingly win the match to give the test side a boost before the big match. The test matches seem to have taken an age to come around, but come this time next week we will know who has got the upper hand in the duel between Woodward and Henry.

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