Friday 18 August 2017

'Tana Umaga can now move on from the BOD spear tackle' - New Zealand media reacts to Lions defeat

Robbie Henshaw of the British & Irish Lions following the match between Auckland Blues and the British & Irish Lions at Eden Park in Auckland, New Zealand. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Robbie Henshaw of the British & Irish Lions following the match between Auckland Blues and the British & Irish Lions at Eden Park in Auckland, New Zealand. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

That didn't take long.

The New Zealand press has been sharpening their knives for Warren Gatland and the Lions for the past few weeks and their time came this morning.

Ihaia West's incredible try and a heroic Blues display saw the worst team in New Zealand condemn the tourists to a 22-16 defeat in a pulsating encounter at Eden Park.

Mark Reason, writing for stuff.co,nz, claimed that Blues boss Tana Umaga had 'redemption' for being involved in the infamous spear tackle on Brian O'Driscoll at the 2005 Lions tour.

"The Lions looked like they might escape, but the Blues picked them up, held them in the air and speared the body into the ground. This was Tana Umaga's night of redemption. This was the moment when he can finally move on from that moment of brutality 12 years ago.

"Just as it was back in 2005, some of the officiating was bizarre, to say the least, and the Lions players did extremely well to keep their mouths shut. But it has always been thus at Eden Park and the Lions had better get used to it in a hurry, because there are two test matches yet to be played at the ground.

"The northern hemisphere really needs to learn how to pass the ball better if they are to compete with New Zealand.

"We are not quite on the tour from hell yet, but when the cops waded into the crowd to retrieve the match ball, the Lions fans must have felt like not giving it back."

The Lions may feel that the TMO didn't favour them but Gregor Paul in the New Zealand Herald claimed that the Lions did not show enough quality to win the game.

"In retrospect the Lions can argue they were hard done by. They had a few decisions not go their way, played a bit of rugby and were starting to dominate physically.

"But they didn't nail the door shut and in truth, while they played some rugby, they didn't play enough.

"The Lions were definitely better than they had been in game one. There was more urgency and accuracy in everything they did and while they didn't get much beyond playing Warrenball, they didn't feel they needed to.

"Why Lions coach Warren Gatland is so touchy about the sides he coaches being stereotyped is a little bit if a mystery - it's not such a bad plan and the Lions were able to get momentum by relying on the directness and brutality of their ball carriers.

"They don't need to come to New Zealand and play like their hosts. They are here to win and if route one and endless kicking gets them there, so what?

"CJ Stander, as the All Blacks found out last year when they played Ireland, takes a bit of stopping and there's so much to like about Courtney Lawes and Maro Itoje.

"Those two carried, tackled and owned the lineout and by doing the simple things better and doing them more often, the Lions were able to go forward when they had the ball.

"If nothing else, they looked more organised and willing than they were in Whangarei and while they clearly have a mountain to climb still, there were at least glimpses of what they might be able to do when they have had a few more games together and get their top team on the track.

"But the essence of their game remains bump and thump and the question that is going to become louder and louder for the Lions, is where is the x-factor?

"Warrenball gets them close but it needs something extra to actually win games."

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