Maori All Blacks 10-32 British and Irish Lions: Forwards lead tourists to victory
By Keith Moore
Last Updated: 17/06/17 6:51pm
Leigh Halfpenny kicked 20 points as the Lions recorded a 32-10 win over the Maori All Blacks after the visiting forwards outplayed their counterparts in Rotorua.
A day after the All Blacks fired a warning shot to the tourists with a 78-0 thrashing of Samoa at Eden Park, the Lions responded with a victory that takes their record to three wins from five games in New Zealand.
The Lions' forwards were in command against the home side, creating pressure which allowed Halfpenny to kick his side to victory, as well as winning a penalty try in the second half.
It was a poor start from both sides, with Leigh Halfpenny slotting four penalties to give the visitors a 12-10 lead at the break after Liam Messam scored a try and Damian McKenzie kicked a conversion and a penalty.
However, from the beginning of the second half, the Lions were in complete control. Halfpenny nailed a fifth penalty early on, after which the forwards won their side a penalty-try by splintering the Maori pack in successive scrums five metres out.
Maro Itoje then crashed over from close range in the 55th minute, with Halfpenny's conversion making it 29-10.
The game went a little flat thereafter, as the Lions' handling hampered them piling on any more tries, and Halfpenny closed out a comfortable victory with a penalty 10 minutes from time.
Man of the match
The first 10 minutes of the second half is where the Lions turned the screws, but it was in the 48th minute where the game was tilted in their favour.
Tawera Kerr-Barlow was shown a yellow card for a high hit on Leigh Halfpenny, and the Lions opted to kick for the corner from the penalty rather than go for goal. Jamie George surged for the line after the driving maul, and though the try was disallowed by the TMO, the Lions were undeterred as they then had an attacking five-metre scrum.
The forwards splintered the Maori All Blacks' scrum on two consecutive occasions to give Jaco Peyper no choice but to run under the sticks and award a penalty try.
The score took the Lions 12 points ahead, and the hosts were unable to recover from the deficit.
Unquestionably the scrum. It's an area where the Lions struggled against the Highlanders, and in fact they have not had complete ascendancy in that area against any of the Kiwi teams, but in Rotorua they were certainly in charge.
It will please Warren Gatland not only because it helped bring about penalties which aided the win, but also because of how it limited the home side's lethal backline.
Chiefs star Damian McKenzie played at No 10 for the Maori All Blacks, but with almost all the ball he received coming off the back foot, his effect on the game was severely limited.
Pat Lam said after the All Blacks game that the forwards would be key in the Tests as the Lions look to starve Beauden Barrett of quality ball, and on Saturday the eight men up front showed they are up to the task.
Another aspect that will please the Lions is that they conceded only one try - against the run of play - which again will be key element in the Test series.
With the Lions 29-10 up after 55 minutes, you would want them to keep attacking to maintain the pressure on the opposition.
Though the defensive effort cannot be criticised, Gatland's side will need to work on their tempo in the final quarter.
One of the aspects where the All Blacks are strongest is in those last 20 minutes, blowing teams away with their superior conditioning and ruthless attack. The Lions need to prove they are capable of staying switched on for 80 minutes if they are to claim the all-important series win.
Stat of the match
The Lions conceded only four penalties. Their discipline has been an issue on the tour, but in Rotorua they were far more clinical in their defensive effort.
Tweet of the match
The 🦁set piece is good but it's their athletic physicality in carry & D as a pack which will make this a Series contest!!— Mike Friday (@MikeFriday09) June 17, 2017
Peter O'Mahony said it was a "huge honour" to lead the Lions to victory, while Maro Itoje feels the squad is showing improvement with each game they play.
Maori All Blacks skipper Ash Dixon said his side struggled with the conditions.