Crusaders 3-12 Lions: Owen Farrell kicks tourists to pressure-relieving victory
By Keith Moore
Last Updated: 10/06/17 8:16pm
Owen Farrell kicked four penalties to help guide the Lions to a pressure-relieving 12-3 win over the Crusaders.
Three penalties from Farrell gave the visitors a 9-3 lead at the break, with Richie Mo'unga offering the Crusaders' sole response from the tee.
Both sides had chances to score tries in the second half, with the Lions butchering two clear opportunities, but neither could cross the whitewash as a fourth Farrell penalty gave Warren Gatland's side a much-needed win in Christchurch.
The Lions showed improvement in the intensity of their game as well as the kicking out of hand, but were once again let down by basic handling errors and decision making.
However, the most important thing for Gatland and his troops is that they claimed a result against the previously unbeaten Crusaders, which breathes life into their tour of New Zealand.
Man of the match
In the 37th minute, the Crusaders had a penalty right in front of the posts with the Lions 9-3 ahead. Instead of narrowing the gap with an easy shot at goal, the home side opted to kick for the corner and set up a lineout.
The Crusaders secured the lineout, but Jordan Taufua knocked when trying to set up the driving maul. The Lions then won a penalty from the resulting scrum and cleared their lines.
Not only was it a blow to the Crusaders that they didn't score, but even in turning down the shot at goal most sides would opt for a scrum to split the defence - the fact that the New Zealanders didn't, and then coughed up a penalty from the next scrum, gave the Lions a psychological boost in the set piece.
The kicking out of hand from Farrell and Conor Murray was brilliant. The pair, who were touted as the likely Test half-backs ahead of the tour - showed their class and composure in pushing the Lions forwards around the park to good effect.
Farrell missed one shot at goal but was otherwise a force on the field, and along with Murray proved the difference at AMI Stadium.
Jonathan Davies went off injured during the game, which in itself was not a good thing, but it allowed the first glimpse of Farrell and Johnny Sexton as a 10-12 combination. The two appeared to gel instantaneously, which bodes well ahead of the Tests.
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Basic handling from the Lions was below par.
In the 58th minute, they were 9-3 ahead as the ball was worked down the short side, with Farrell and Anthony Watson combining to release Liam Williams down the left touchline.
Williams was free, and with one man to beat only had to feed the ball inside to Watson in support. Instead, the winger opted for a kick over the top and knocked on when trying to gather the ball.
If the pass had gone to Watson it would almost certainly have been a try and a 16-3 scoreline if the conversion was successful.
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On the hour mark, Watson broke in open play and tore the Crusaders defence to pieces. The England international drew and passed to Sexton on the wing, with Sexton throwing an inside pass to Stander who knocked on deep in enemy territory to lay waste to another opportunity.
The Lions will need to fix that aspect of their game as they continue on the tour.
"I thought we caused them some problems at times," said Owen Farrell. "Hopefully in the games coming up we'll be a bit more clinical and be able to finish a few more chances off. It's another step in the right direction."
"Our mistakes allowed them into the game," said Sam Whitelock. "They're a quality side, a number of guys have played a massive amount of Test rugby, and they just squeezed us out through taking easy three points at the start. We're then playing catch-up rugby and that plays into their hands."
Stat of the game
The Lions won nine turnovers in the game, halting the momentum of the Crusaders who were unable to notch a single try in front of their fans.
Tweet of the game