The final midweek game for the Lions took place on Tuesday morning (UK time), and it was both a spectacle and a disappointment. The games against the Super Rugby sides have been a saga of up’s and downs for the entirety of the tour and the game against the Hurricanes has followed this theme.
The Hurricanes boasted some impressive names on their team sheet, really displaying the task ahead of the midweek side. The likes of Savea, Milner-Skudder and Jordie Barrett made up an explosive back-line, Barrett was released by All Blacks coach Steve Hansen to play the game and impressed thoroughly. The brother of Beauden Barrett took the kicking duties and only missed the one kick all match. It seemed like an open game in the first half but an injury to Robbie Henshaw slowed the game down and meant a re-jig of the Lions team, with North moving to inside centre.
Tommy Seymour increased his try count for the tour after a wonderful break from Greig Laidlaw following a tackle from Seymour himself. Things looked promising for the Lions and a victory against the current Super Rugby champions looked on the cards. Well, that was before Gibbins went over the line, with a shove from his team mates to get him over. George North then went over the line after Leigh Halfpenny batted Biggar’s to lock, Iain Henderson who used his soft hands to pop-pass to North, who dashed to score five points. Both of the Lions tries were converted and combined with three first half penalties the Lions went in at half time 23-7 up.
The ‘Canes came out fighting at the start of the second half with an early try from Luamape, after a classy move involving the sides big players. This try did highlight the worst thing about New Zealand rugby. The arrogance. When the try was scored Dan Biggar had hold of Luamape after an extremely good effort in defence. So when the try scorer got up, Biggar was on the floor as Hurricanes players came over to celebrate with their team mate. One of these players antagonised Biggar, causing a fracas. This wouldn’t have happened if the ‘Canes players weren’t so arrogant. It wasn’t in the spirit of the game and took away from the wonderful try that they scored.
Seymour then went over the line again after the Hurricanes scrum-half, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, was sin binned. This try simply happened because of the numerical advantage that the Lions had. Biggar failed to land the conversion.
In the 65th minute the game was turned on its head. Literally. The superb Jordie Barrett was taken beyond the horizontal by the equally as superb Iain Henderson. The Ulsterman was then given 10 minutes to cool off in the sin bin by the referee. The game quickly changed when Wes Goosen bagged five points within minutes of Henderson leaving the field. Again this try came as a result of dragging the Lions in, then spinning it wide for Goosen to jog for five.
It was try time again three minutes later, this time Vaea Fifita pounced on a loose ball, an opportunists try if ever there was one. When this was converted it equalised the game. It remained that way until the finish.
One thing that I picked up on was the lack of substitutes;
Why on earth would Gatland call up five international players and not play them. It just beggars belief. Finn Russell had an outstanding Six Nations and a good tour with Scotland and it is just disrespectful that he didn’t get more than just ten minutes game time, whilst Biggar was having a HIA. The Welsh players called up have received abuse for being called up onto the tour, the least Gatland could have done is give them a few minutes of game time.
So, that’s that for the midweek games. Honestly I don’t have much hope for the tests but I look forward to them all the same.