The British & Irish Lions secured their first midweek win on tour as they thrashed the Chiefs 34-6 in Hamilton on Tuesday. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
Although the 'first-choice' Lions have secured impressive wins over the Crusaders and Maori All Blacks at the start of their tour to New Zealand, the midweek side has suffered humbling defeats against the Blues and Highlanders.
Yet that sequence of disappointing results was brought to an end in emphatic fashion in Hamilton, with the Lions producing a superior physical and defensive effort to nullify any threat posed by the hosts.
Of course, it has to be kept in mind that the Chiefs side were without six first-choice players, who are with the All Blacks squad, but this result will still serve as a timely morale-booster ahead of this Saturday’s opening Test.
Out on the wing, Jack Nowell certainly caught the eye with a couple of well-taken tries, while fullback Liam Williams and flyhalf Dan Biggar enjoyed solid outings.
The Lions’ forward pack also established complete dominance, particularly at scrum time, while CJ Stander was typically industrious at No 8.
Although the Lions finished Tuesday's clash with a roar, the opening quarter of this encounter had turned out to be a rather scrappy, stop-start affair, with neither side really finding any real rhythm to their play.
Even when Lions prop Joe Marler appeared to have handed the hosts an opportunity to establish some ascendancy when he was yellow-carded in the 12th minute for an off-the-ball shoulder charge, the Chiefs couldn’t make the most of it.
In his absence, Biggar and Stephen Donald simply traded a penalty each, but just after Marler returned to action, Nowell dived over to score the opening try and create some early scoreboard pressure.
Notably, that attacking opportunity for the Lions had originated from yet another Chiefs turnover, with the home side gifting possession back to the visitors with uncharacteristic regularity in the opening stanza.
However, the Chiefs were finally able to reap some reward after a concerted attacking effort with the final play of the half, which ultimately enabled Donald to slot a second penalty and reduce the deficit to seven points after the Lions had strayed offsides.
It only served as a temporary reprieve, though, with the Lions upping the ante among the forward exchanges after the break, and which eventually saw them awarded a penalty try after a powerful driving lineout was illegally brought down.
To make matters worse for the Chiefs, flanker Mitchell Brown was shown a yellow card, and during his absence, Nowell and Jared Payne went over for tries that extended the lead to an emphatic 28 points that the Lions maintained until the final whistle.
Chiefs – Penalties: Stephen Donald (2).
British & Irish Lions – Tries: Jack Nowell (2), penalty try, Jared Payne. Conversions: Dan Biggar (3), automatic conversion. Penalties: Biggar (2).
Chiefs – 15 Shaun Stevenson, 14 Toni Pulu, 13 Tim Nanai-Williams, 12 Johnny Faauli, 11 Solomon Alaimalo, 10 Stephen Donald (c), 9 Finlay Christie, 8 Tom Sanders, 7 Lachlan Boshier, 6 Mitchell Brown, 5 Michael Allardice, 4 Dominic Bird, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Liam Polwart, 1Siegfried Fisi'ihoi.
Subs: 16 Hika Elliot, 17 Aidan Ross, 18 Atu Moli, 19 Liam Messam, 20 Mitchell Karpik, 21 Jonathan Taumateine, 22 Luteru Laulala, 23 Chase Tiatia.
British & Irish Lions – 15 Liam Williams, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Jared Payne, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 Elliot Daly, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Greig Laidlaw, 8 CJ Stander, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 James Haskell, 5 Courtney Lawes, 4 Iain Henderson, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Rory Best (c), 1 Joe Marler.
Subs: 16 Kristian Dacey, 17 Allan Dell, 18 Tomas Francis, 19 Cory Hill, 20 Alun Wyn Jones, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Finn Russell, 23 Tommy Seymour.
Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images