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British and Irish Lions overpower Maori All Blacks

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The British and Irish Lions beat New Zealand’s Maori All Blacks 10-32 at International Stadium in Rotorua and in doing so, got their tour back on track.

This was a convincing win; the visitors overpowered the disorganised and error-strewn Kiwis (who had only spent a week together) thanks to a solid scrum, dominance at the breakdown and accurate tactical kicking.

The tourists were relentless with their pressure throughout the game. The Maoris were made to make 154 tackles to 67 and lost the battle of the breakdown, 47 to 105.

They did not win a maul, lost eight, and made three offloads to 10. You cannot win a rugby match with those stats.

By the end, they had 31 percent possession and 23 percent territory, which underlined the Lions’ authority in every department and facet of the match.

They even kept the Kiwis scoreless in the second stanza, enjoying 81 percent possession and 88 percent territory in the second period.

Leigh Halfpenny kicked six penalties in a match haul of 20 points. The Lions were awarded a penalty try before Maro Itoje’s score in the second half as they ran out comfortable winners.

The game was close at the break, with the tourists leading by two points. Liam Messam scored after 12 minutes, but the joy was short-lived.

Tawera Kerr-Barlow was yellow carded soon after half-time, and the tourists took full advantage, scoring twice, but in all fairness, the Lions forwards were in control before the scrumhalf was sin-binned.

Halfpenny kicked two penalties to give the Lions an early six-point lead. It did not last, as Messam’s try and Damian McKenzie – playing at first five-eighth – added the conversion.

The try came from one of the only mistakes in the match by the Lions.

The Maoris took a quick throw and charged into the Lions’ half. Nehe Milner-Skudder’s grubber kick behind the Lions’ defence caused a mix-up between George North and Halfpenny.

The wing fumbled the ball, which was kicked forward for Messam to dive on and score.

McKenzie and Halfpenny traded penalties at the beginning of the second quarter to make it 10-9, but the Welshman’s 33rd-minute penalty saw the tourists take a 10-12 lead. This was as close as the game would get.

The Lions enjoyed 74 percent territory and 62 percent possession in the first 40 minutes; a warning of things to come.

Warren Gatland’s team came flying out the blocks. After repeated infringements at the breakdown, Halfpenny extended his team’s lead with his fifth penalty of the night.

The Maoris looked like a team in pre-season; their restarts were terrible, their handling, poor and they had no cohesion.

They had no answer to the tourists’ tactical kicking, which pinned them deep inside their half.

McKenzie’s restart did not go ten metres. The Lions, from the scrum, kicked a bomb, James Lowe, usually solid under the high ball, knocked on, putting his team under pressure inside their 22.

Taulupe Faletau picked up from the base of the scrum, darted to his right to start the move. Halfpenny saw a gap but was taken out by Kerr-Barlow.

TMO Ian Smith and referee Jaco Peyper agreed that the scrumhalf’s challenge warranted only a yellow because the fullback slipped into the reckless tackle.

The sin-binning was a turning point as the Lions scored 14 points during the 10-minute spell. The Lions thought they had scored from their lineout drive, but the TMO ruled that the score was inconclusive.

It did not matter, as they came again. From the scrum, the Lions’ forwards bulldozed the beleaguered Maori All Blacks’ pack and were awarded a penalty try by the South African referee.

This broke the Maori’s spirit. Four minutes’ later, Itoje crossed the whitewash. It came from another 5-metre scrum.

The Englishman powered over from close range after Faletau’s break from the back of the scrum. Game over.

Wave after wave of attacks by the Lions ground their opponents into submission.

New Zealand rugby players are not used to making so many tackles in a game, and it showed.

Halfpenny still had time to add to his penalty tally, kicking a 70th-minute goal to stretch the lead to 22 points, putting one more nail in the Kiwi’s coffin.

This result will ease some of the pressure for Gatland and his team, but do not read too much into this game: the true test still awaits.

Final Score: Maori All Blacks 10 (10) British & Irish Lions 32 (12)

Scorers

Maori All Blacks
Tries – Messam
Pen – McKenzie
Con – McKenzie
Drop –
Cards – Kerr-Barlow (Yellow, 47th minute)

British & Irish Lions
Tries – Penalty try, Itoje
Pen – Halfpenny (6)
Con – Halfpenny
Drop –
Cards –

Match Officials
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant 1: Jérôme Garcès (France)
Assistant 2: Romain Poite (France)
TMO: Ian Smith (Australia)

Teams

Maori All Blacks

15 James Lowe, 14 Nehe Milner-Skudder, 13 Matt Proctor, 12 Charlie Ngatai, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Damian McKenzie, 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Liam Messam, 7 Elliot Dixon, 6 Akira Ioane, 5 Tom Franklin, 4 Joe Wheeler, 3 Ben May, 2 Ash Dixon (captain), 1 Kane Hames.

Replacements: 16 Hikawera Elliot, 17 Chris Eves, 18 Marcel Renata, 19 Leighton Price, 20 Kara Pryor, 21 Bryn Hall, 22 Ihaia West, 23 Rob Thompson.

British and Irish Lions: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Ben Te’o, 11 George North, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Sean O’Brien, 6 Peter O’Mahony (captain), 5 George Kruis, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Jamie George, 1 Mako Vunipola.

Replacements: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 Iain Henderson, 20 Sam Warburton, 21 Greig Laidlaw, 22 Dan Biggar, 23 Elliot Daly

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