26 Jun

Episode 7: First Test – Lions Out-Gunned Up Front
by Paul Waite
26 Jun 2005

The Lions lost the first test decisively at Jade Stadium tonight, crashing to a 21-3 defeat.

The loss was almost all attributable to a lineout which was just about completely dysfunctional, preventing them from gaining and using territory through line-kicking in what were the perfect conditions to do so.

However to suggest that was all there was to it in to over-simplify. This All Black performance gave the lie to the oft-repeated Northern Hemisphere refrain that New Zealand rugby has forgotten how to produce good tight forward play. This test was full of just that, as the All Blacks dominated at scrum time, mauling, in general play on both attack and defence, and at the lineout where they simply owned the ball.

The Lions suffered a body-blow when they lost their charismatic captain Brian O’Driscoll to a dislocated shoulder in only the second minute of play, in somewhat confusing circumstances. However the outcome would have been the same if he had stayed on the pitch, since the problems stemmed from lack of territory and possession, which provided no opportunities for the Lions backline to create anything to threaten the All Black defence.

The All Blacks put together a stunningly accurate performance right across the team, given that they were playing in freezing, drving rain for most of the game. There were very few dropped passes, and yet the ball was spun wide through the backs as often as on a dry day.

All-in-all this result should send shock-waves through the Lions camp and its faithful supporters alike. Nobody wants a mismatch series, where the Lions go down 3-0 with a whimper. It is vitally important that the Lions bounce back and produce a competetive performance at the Caketin next weekend.

Despite the lack of set-piece parity, the Lions did in fact show what they could do with enough quality possession, on at least two occasions when they were dangerous pressuring the All Black line. They can take some heart from the knowledge that, given a decent forward platform, they can indeed compete. The obvious first step is to remedy the lineout.

But for now, a hearty congratulations to the All Blacks, and the coaching team. That performance was fantastic.

See you in Wellington!

Paul Waite

Paul Waite

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