Chiefs 6-34 Lions: Jack Nowell scores twice as tourists ease past depleted Chiefs
By Keith Moore
Last Updated: 20/06/17 2:20pm
Two Jack Nowell tries helped the Lions to a comprehensive 34-6 victory over a depleted Chiefs side in Hamilton on Tuesday.
The win - the Lions' first midweek success after losing out to the Blues and the Highlanders earlier in the tour - came against a Chiefs side missing several All Blacks, but it will be no less sweeter for Warren Gatland's troops who now turn their attention to the first Test against the All Blacks at Eden Park on Saturday.
The Lions took a 6-0 lead within 10 minutes thanks to a pair of Dan Biggar penalties, before a Joe Marler yellow card for a late hit threatened to derail their momentum.
However, the 10-minute period was well negotiated by the Lions, with a lone Stephen Donald penalty all the Chiefs had to show for the extra-man advantage.
Nowell then crossed for his first try in the 25th minute, wriggling through an empty ruck to crash over and hand his side a 10-point lead.
Donald responded with a shot at goal in what was the final act of the half to make it 13-6 to the Lions at the break.
As they did against the Maori All Blacks, the Lions forwards stamped their dominance on the game early in the second half, milking a penalty-try after the Chiefs forwards collapsed a series of driving mauls from close range - losing Mitchell Brown to the bin in the process.
Nowell then added his second - the pick of the tries on the day - before Ireland's Jared Payne crossed to bring down the curtain on the Lions' most dominant performance of the tour.
Man of the match
In the 13th minute Marler was shown a yellow card for a no-arms late hit on Nepo Laulala.
With the extra-man advantage the Chiefs kicked to the corner, but from the resulting driving maul CJ Stander wrestled his way to the back to wrap the ball up and win his side a scrum when the maul was held up.
The Lions pack, with newcomer Allan Dell filling in at loosehead prop for Marler, destroyed the home side's scrum to win a penalty and clear their lines to alleviate the pressure.
The Chiefs notched a lone penalty in Marler's absence, with the Lions making a statement by limiting the damage during a crucial sin bin period early on.
In the 50th minute Donald was penalised for hands in the ruck and the Lions kicked to touch to set up a lineout. The visitors set up a driving maul which was collapsed by the Chiefs, and Biggar kicked for the corner once more.
The Chiefs managed to spoil the attack but took the ball into touch for another five-metre lineout to the Lions as the pressure mounted. Another driving maul was set up following a successful take, and when that was collapsed the referee marched under the posts to award the visitors an automatic seven-pointer.
The score took the Lions 20-6 ahead, and they were able to close the game out with ease thereafter.
Try of the match
Nowell's second try was the pick of the Lions' scores from the tour overall, not just in Hamilton.
Once again the forwards were in fine form, with Iain Henderson, Courtney Lawes and CJ Stander a handful for the Chiefs pack throughout the 80 minutes.
Biggar controlled things superbly for the Lions; his attitude showed how important the jersey is to him, and his tempo kept the Lions on the front foot. The Wales international has given Gatland food for thought ahead of the first Test.
Lock Courtney Lawes was taken off for a Head Injury Assessment during the game. The second rower left the field against the Highlanders last week after a getting into an awkward position trying to tackle Waisake Naholo, so it would have caused concern for the coaching staff to see him temporarily sidelined.
The Saints forward was deemed fit to continue, but it forced Alun Wyn Jones to play more of the game than Gatland would have wanted ahead of the opening Test.
The replacements were used sparingly, and Dell's introduction during the Marler sin-bin was the only appearance by any of the 'Geographic six' from the bench.
Tweet of the match
Biggar definitely putting his hand up for a test start looks a man possessed— Andy Powell (@andypowell8) June 20, 2017
"There's a good team spirit throughout this squad," said skipper Rory Best. "You saw that out there - the boys really worked hard for each other.
Even at the very end when you're winning comfortably, it's easy to concede a try and give up, but we kept marching forward."
Nowell said: "Back in Exeter they call me the pick-and-go king because I keep stealing the forwards' tries! Any try in a Lions shirt means a lot. I'm just thankful I could do it for the boys I was playing with."
Chiefs skipper Donald paid tribute to the Lions: "They were too good. We had a spell in the second half where we started to do a few things that we wanted, but they scored two quick tries and broke our backs. Unfortunately, once they got a roll on we couldn't stop them.
"We tried hard but we were outgunned. They deserve their win."