By Thomas Branston
The British and Irish Lions suffered a 22-16 defeat at the hands of Super Rugby side the Blues on Wednesday and Warren Gatland’s men will need to take a long hard look at themselves in reflection of their shock defeat, but they cannot dwindle as they must prepare to face the Crusaders on Saturday.
1 | It’s clear from the performance against the Blues that goal kicking and an average set-piece will not be enough to win games against the Super Rugby sides. Although Leigh Halfpenny knocked through three successful attempts his efforts were in vein as Ihaia West scored a late try to seal the tie.
The Lions set-piece showed glimpses of improvement from their narrow win over the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians and CJ Stander benefitted from the only try of the game for the Lions from the set-piece that led to a driving maul and the powerful back row crashed over.
2 | Southern hemisphere sides play expansive attacking rugby and are known for their successes by playing this way, apposed to the northern hemisphere playing hard-running, set-piece rugby.
Sonny Bill Williams and Ihaia West combined late on to score a sensational try which won the game for the Blues, the Lions defensively were not good enough and throughout the game were caught out by quick offloading rugby which allowed the Blues to breach gaps and gain valuable yards.
3 | Sonny Bill Williams has still got it, his inspired performance was rewarded by the centre scoring a try just before half-time to give his side a 12-10 lead at the break. The New Zealand international played a phenomenal game against the Lions and his famous offload was in full motion with minutes to go as it was his quick thinking that allowed West through to score the winner.
Williams has been rewarded with his impressive performances by being named in the All Blacks 33-man squad to face the Lions. The 31-year-old has been included by Steve Hansen for the three tests at the end of the tour.
4 | Warren Gatland needs to look his game plan for the clash against the Crusaders as the Blues managed to shut down majority of the Lions play at he set-piece and in open field.
The Lions backline were far from impressive and looked flat throughout the encounter. The side in general lacked creativity, however their were positives to take from the clash. The forwards put in a good shift and allowed the backs to bring the ball forward. Unfortunately most of the packs work was undone by the lack of creativity.
5 | The British and Irish Lions lacked creativity when moving the ball forward during the game and were slow to get started against the Blues. It was difficult for them when the likes of Sonny Bill Williams being in form and running the show for the hosts.
The Lions were also guilty of ill-discipline throughout the game which enabled the Blues to play their style of rugby and they thrived upon it. The error count at the set-piece and generally on the park were poor from the Lions and this was another factor in the side suffering their first defeat of the 2017 tour.