Yet again my prediction was off… thank god, I’m not a betting man!
But a much improved and much needed improvement from the Lions. The conditioned where a big factor in the decreased number of handling errors and we finally got to see some width on the attack and the Lions second try was pure class. You could be a pessimist and talk about the fact they were playing a depleted Chiefs side, but in all seriousness, this was not a test Lions team. Not to mention, that nearly every play on the bench had only been in the Lions camp for 2-3 days.
Now for the biased Scottish opinion. Laidlaw played his best game of the tour, he was faster at the breakdown, passing was sharp and most impressive was his first line break in what feels like a decade. Dell came onto the pitch as yellow card replacement for Marler and his first action in the famous red jersey, winning a penalty at the scrum! That maybe his Lions tour over but at least he can say he was an impact player.
Seymour, didn’t get much game time but the one line-break me made was superb! But what summed up his tour was after doing the hard work, he could get away the two-meter pass to put his team mate in for the try.
Now, the game we have been waiting four years for. The first test against the All Blacks. Neither team will be named until Thursday, however after the Lions selection today you could more than likely guess more than two thirds of the starting team. The biggest question mark though is the fitness of one Owen Farrell. He has been the outstanding first five on tour so far and his presences on the pitch never goes un noticed. When you listen to how the other Lions talk about him, he has incredible high standards for myself and the team he plays for. He demands perfection from everyone in the team and leads by example. The best quality he has brought to the tour so far has been his variety in attack. Yes, Sexton played well against the Maori and people keep suggestion that Gatland is still going to play them both at first and second five, but in my opinion if the Lions don’t play Farrell at ten, they won’t have any chance in winning. Well, there is always the wildcard of Russell….
As for the Kiwis, their squad is a little more open. If the selection for the Samoa game is anything to go by, it’s going to be a traditional European fixture. Both teams with big packs, first receivers that like to kick the ball, midfields that are happy to take the ball up the guts and a back three that can chase ball all day and have a certain amount of security in the air. However, knowing Shag he is going to have a couple tricks up his sleeve and having so many Barrett and Savea brothers on the pitch, is a recipe for untold amounts of excitement.
Time for my prediction, I have checked the weather forecast and it is supposed to be pouring down. Without knowing the teams, I am going to be a bit more conservative with my score line but give a more fuller explanation why. I am going to go for Lions 15-29 All Blacks. Assuming either Halfpenny or Farrell are playing, the Lions will have a world class kicker and aim to take any points on offer. They may score a try but this most likely come from the set piece and not open play. The all Blacks will take points when on offer too, but after watching their warm up game and how the super rugby teams have been attacking all season, I can’t help but think they will score at least three tries.
John Mann, Community and Rugby Development