Highlanders 23-22 British and Irish Lions: Warren Gatland's side suffer second tour loss
Last Updated: 13/06/17 7:28pm
The British and Irish Lions suffered the second loss of their New Zealand tour as they went down 23-22 to the Highlanders in Dunedin on Tuesday.
The Lions scored three tries to Highlanders' two but Marty Banks kicked a penalty in the 73rd minute to give the home side the win.
Warren Gatland's side scored tries through Jonathan Joseph, Tommy Seymour and captain Sam Warburton, with Dan Biggar adding two conversions and a penalty.
All Blacks winger Waisake Naholo and hooker Liam Coltman scored tries while fly-half Lima Sopoaga slotted a conversion and two penalties for the hosts. Banks also added a conversion.
The game was played at a frenetic pace as the Highlanders looked to nullify the Lions rush defence with a very clever kicking game and used their power out wide.
Lima Sopoaga's penalty put the hosts ahead 3-0, before Rhys Webb knocked on stretching for a try.
Dan Biggar's penalty levelled proceedings before the Highlanders scored the first try with Naholo going over from short range after getting past Joseph and bumping off Courtney Lawes.
Sopoaga converted for a 10-3 lead and the Lions also lost Lawes with a suspected concussion.
The Lions hit back after Joseph made up for his missed tackle on Naholo with a try of his own. Strong carries from CJ Stander and a break from Dan Biggar created some space for Joseph, who raced 25m to score.
Biggar converted and they went into the break all square at 10-10.
The Lions had the perfect start to the second half as Seymour read a Sopoaga cross-field kick to perfection and the Scotland international charged through for the Lions' second try.
Biggar could not add the conversion and Sopoaga narrowed the score to 15-13 with another penalty.
The visitors were then gifted a 5m scrum after Sopaoaga botched a clearance kick and they made the most of it after building through the phases. Sam Warburton, who had a storming second half, showed his power to get over for their third try, with Biggar converting to give them a 22-13 lead.
However, the Highlanders hit back with a try through hooker Liam Coltman from a driving lineout, which was followed by Banks' winner with five minutes remaining after a brilliant scrum won them the penalty.
Replacement Owen Farrell missed a routine shot at goal and Elliot Daly failed with a long-range effort, as the Highlanders joined the Blues in beating the Lions.
After Warburton scored, the Lions had a healthy lead but they lost concentration on the re-start with Jared Payne dropping the ball. Instead of taking control of the game, the Lions were immediately on the back foot and the Highlanders took full advantage. They built on that momentum, producing a superb scrum in the 74th minute to blast the Lions off the ball and win the penalty. Up stepped Banks who held his nerve to nail a penalty that gave the Highlanders the win.
The Lions scored three good tries, and they could have scored a couple more, but they showed patience and awareness.
Warburton had a quiet first half but produced an excellent second-half performance that puts him back in the running for a start in the Test match. Rhys Webb was also good for the Lions and provided quality ball, while Robbie Henshaw also stuck up his hand with an all-round performance.
Once again the Lions gave away far too many penalties and this is becoming a real concern. Their error count was also unacceptable and will need to be sorted.
The Lions would be slightly concerned by the number of missed tackles as they could not handle the Highlanders consistently changing the point of attack. Graham Rowntree will also be disappointed with his scrum, who got well beaten on a number of occasions.
On the injury front, the loss of Lawes was a big blow to the Lions as he has been one of the standout tourists in New Zealand.
"We didn't nail a few big moments that were pretty important to us. Unfortunately, we let them back into it," said Warren Gatland.
"We've defended really well and cleared our line, and from the next lineout we've given away a soft penalty which has allowed them to put us under pressure and score from that. That's a disappointing aspect."
"We've been preparing and watching some of the games the Lions have been playing. Everyone started to roll into town and there was a huge buzz around with all the Lions supporters coming in," said Highlanders skipper Luke Whitelock.
"It was a frantic game and it went down to the wire - awesome to be involved in, really."