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Farrell kicks British and Irish Lions to victory over Crusaders

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The British and Irish Lions beat the Crusaders 3-12 at a wet AMI Stadium in Christchurch in a battle of attrition and keep their record of not losing consecutive games to regional teams in New Zealand since 1993.

The Lions dominated possession and their tactical kicking was superb as they kept the Crusaders on the back foot throughout this physical contest.

However, the Lions were held scoreless against a side that consisted of players with less Super Rugby caps than the tourists have Test caps.

This was not convincing, despite the excessive celebrations at the final whistle by the visitors, after ending the Crusaders unbeaten record this season.

Owen Farrell kicked four penalties as the tourists ground out a victory against the seven-times Super Rugby champions.

Richie Mo’unga’s first-half penalty was all the Kiwis could muster in slippery conditions.

The home team was forced to make 136 tackles, 43 more than they have had to make in an average Super Rugby game this season, and it told.

This was not a classic, but intense. Warren Gatland’s men needed to win this to get their tour back on track.

Gatland’s tactics have been questioned from the Britain and Ireland to South Africa and Australasia.

And, after another stodgy performance by a side cloaked with international experience against a team with few current All Blacks, the media and supporters will only be left shaking their heads.

The Lions dominated almost every facet of the game, from the scoreboard to territory and possession, which was weighted at 65 percent for most of the contest.

The tourists, aided by some questionable refereeing by Frenchman Mathieu Raynal, had the better of the breakdown, the set pieces and marginal calls.

Farrell kicked two penalties inside the opening quarter to put his team up by six points. Mo’unga reduced the deficit to three on 25 minutes.

The Crusaders have been used to running the opposition ragged this season, but the slippery conditions saw them make a dozen handling errors in the match.

Faced with a Test-match quality pack, they took an early beating, until one powerful scrum restored their collective cohesion.

The Lions pack had grind out penalties at the set piece and with Mr Raynal giving them assistance with some questionable calls, they kept on top of their opponent.

Connor Murray and Farrell dictated the play at the halfback positions; their tactical kicking was superb, forever pinning the Crusaders deep inside their half.

Ben Te’o, a surprise pick for England, never mind the Lions, was excellent. He offered a strong defence in the midfield and his distribution was solid.

Conversely, the hosts struggled to gain any momentum, or make the most of their opportunities.

On 31 minutes, Farrell extended the lead to 3-9. But, the last 10 minutes of the half belonged to the home team.

They thought they had scored before the break, only for the video evidence to be inconclusive.

Another attack was halted when Alun Wyn Jones brought down a driving maul on near the goal-line but was not penalised.

The Lions held out and went into the break six points to the good – a big lead in close games played in the wet.

Soon after the interval, Farrell had a penalty ruled wide by the touchline assistants.

The kick looked good, but had the posts been higher, the ball might have ricocheted inside the uprights. The England first-five eight was less than impressed.

On 50 minutes, the Crusaders changed their entire front row; off came Owen Franks, Codie Taylor and Joe Moody and on came Ben Funnell, Wyatt Crockett and Michael Alaalatoa.

If the hosts won the scrum battle while the first choice trio was on the field, they lost the battle afterwards.

The Lions pack started to gain the ascendancy, as the home team ran out of ideas. Every wide attack ended with a knock on, or a tackle into touch.

As the game entered the final quarter, the tourists started to find holes in the Crusaders’ defence.

Scott Robertson’s men were starting to tire, already they had had to make more tackles inside an hour than in every Super Rugby game this season.

Anthony Watson thought he had scored, but the TMO was called to check for a knock on by Liam Williams.

The Welshman lost the ball forward in a challenge and the Saders survived, just.

Watson was having a great game after coming on for the injured Stuart Hogg, who was off after running into Murray’s elbow, chasing a high kick.

The English speedster was a threat from deep, running stray kicks back and finding gaps in the defensive lines of the Crusaders.

One break almost led to a try, but CJ Stander could not hang on with the try-line at his mercy.

The Lions were finding their groove, taking the ball through multiphase plays, slowly building momentum. On such play went 14 phases before breaking down.

With 10 minutes remaining, Farrell kicked his fourth penalty, extending his side’s lead to nine points and two scores.

The Crusaders had no answers to the defensive wall that stood in front of them; every attempt to go wide ended with a loss of possession through a mistake.

All the experience of the Lions’ Test veterans told as they clung to their lead and ground out an important win.

Keeping the unbeaten Crusaders tryless is no mean feat and the end of match celebrations from the tourists showed how much this victory meant to them.

However, two tries in three games against the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians, the Blues and now the Crusaders, is nothing to shout about, especially, with far sterner tests still to come.

Final Score: Crusaders 3 (3) British and Irish Lions 12 (9)

Scorers

Crusaders
Tries –
Pen – Mo’unga
Con –
Drop –
Cards –

British and Irish Lions
Tries –
Pen – Farrell (4)
Con –
Drop –
Cards –

Match Officials
Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France)
Assistant 1: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant 2: Pascal Gauzere (France)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)

Teams

Crusaders

15 Israel Dagg, 14 Seta Tamanivalu, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 David Havili, 11 George Bridge, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Jordan Taufua, 7 Matt Todd, 6 Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, 5 Samuel Whitelock (captain), 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody,

Replacements: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Michael Alaalatoa, 19 Quinten Strange, 20 Jed Brown, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Mitchell Hunt, 23 Tim Bateman.

British and Irish Lions

15 Stuart Hogg, 14 George North, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Ben Te’o, 11 Liam Williams, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Sean O’Brien, 6 Peter O’Mahony, 5 George Kruis, 4 Alun Wyn Jones (captain), 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Jamie George, 1 Mako Vunipola.

Replacements: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Dan Cole, 19 Maro Itoje, 20 Christiaan Stander, 21 Rhys Webb, 22 Johnny Sexton, 23 Anthony Watson.

British & Irish Lions, club and country

15 Stuart Hogg – Glasgow Warriors, Scotland, 14 George North – Northampton Saints, Wales, 13 Jonathan Davies – Scarlets, Wales, 12 Ben Te’o – Worcester Warriors, England, 11 Liam Williams – Scarlets, Wales, 10 Owen Farrell – Saracens, England, 9 Conor Murray – Munster, Ireland, 1 Mako Vunipola – Saracens, England, 2 Jamie George – Saracens, England, 3 Tadhg Furlong – Leinster, Ireland, 4 Alun Wyn Jones (capt) – Ospreys, Wales, 5 George Kruis – Saracens, England, 6 Peter O’Mahony – Munster, Ireland, 7 Sean O’Brien – Leinster, Ireland, 8 Taulupe Faletau – Bath Rugby, Wales

Replacements: 16 Ken Owens – Scarlets, Wales, 17 Jack McGrath – Leinster, Ireland, 18 Dan Cole – Leicester, England, 19 Maro Itoje – Saracens, England, 20 CJ Stander – Munster, Ireland, 21 Rhys Webb – Ospreys, Wales, 22 Johnny Sexton – Leinster, Ireland, 23 Anthony Watson – Bath Rugby, England

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