Friday 19 January 2018

Henderson regret as yellow card may scupper Test hopes

Hurricanes 31 Lions 31

Iain Henderson’s charge leaves Hurricanes’ Brad Shields on the ground in Wellington yesterday. Photo: Peter Parks/AFP/Getty Images
Iain Henderson’s charge leaves Hurricanes’ Brad Shields on the ground in Wellington yesterday. Photo: Peter Parks/AFP/Getty Images
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

He was the best player on the pitch, but a moment of indiscipline and the pre-determined plans of Warren Gatland suggest that Iain Henderson will have to wait another week at least to become a Test Lion.

Gatland is in need of second-rows after his starting pair put in a woeful performance in the face of All Black fury last Saturday, but with Maro Itoje set to step up one the question is whether George Kruis survives and if there is a bench spot to be won.

Both of yesterday's starting locks, Henderson and Courtney Lawes, had chances of promotion but when it was the Northampton Saint who was called ashore early in the second half, it was clear that he was in the frame ahead of the Ulster man who had been in impressive form.

When Henderson tipped Jordie Barrett over with the help of Jonathan Joseph in a ruck clear-out eerily reminiscent of the one that ended Brian O'Driscoll's tour 12 years ago and saw yellow, his Test chances receded further.

While he was off the pitch, the Hurricanes scored 14 unanswered points to level matters and while his return stopped the rot, it was clear that Warren Gatland was less than impressed.

Fantastically

Rory Best with his son Ben after the game. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Rory Best with his son Ben after the game. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

"He carried fantastically well," the coach said.

"It was a big moment in the game with his yellow card. It was a penalty to us which ends up being a penalty reversed and a yellow card and that's the game.

"It was a crucial moment. It's disappointing because you're in so much control of it. We went from 68pc territory to about 25pc, so it was a massive swing in the game, and disappointing that we ended up with the yellow card.

"Look, he carried extremely well and that was a big positive.

British and Irish Lions' George North scores only for it to be disallowed. Photo: David Davies/PA Wire
British and Irish Lions' George North scores only for it to be disallowed. Photo: David Davies/PA Wire

"I thought Courtney Lawes carried well too in the first half. It's a position right from the start where we knew we had a lot of strength. It's a toss-up in terms of selection.

"We'll meet tomorrow evening and look at selecting the side before we announce it to the players on Thursday."

Henderson played a large part in putting his side in a winning position, creating a try for George North with his sleight of hand and carrying the game to the Super Rugby champions at every opportunity.

He was disappointed to have his night marred by the sin-binning.

"It was definitely an enjoyable game to play in, for the 70 minutes I played, but that yellow was frustrating," he said.

"It was stupid and probably a little bit of mistimed rucking, I would describe it as. It was definitely hard for me sitting there and watching those 10 minutes, and putting the guys in that tough position.

"However, we came back at the end there and we were trying to put a bit of pressure on there, but that's the way it goes, isn't it?"

It was an entertaining game that swung from end to end with the Lions establishing a strong early lead through Tommy Seymour's try and the boot of Dan Biggar, but they were pegged back by Callum Gibbins' try.

George North's effort, thanks to Henderson's quick thinking, gave them a half-time cushion but a brilliant try fron Ngani Laumape closed the gap on the resumption.

Strong work from the Ulster second-row helped the tourists into a position of dominance as Seymour scored a second, but a moment of madness saw him tip the younger brother of Beauden over and the 'Canes scored twice while he was off through Wes Goosen and Vaea Fifita to level matters.

It was a disappointing way for the midweek team to finish, with Robbie Henshaw set to be ruled out with a shoulder injury he picked up during the first half and Jared Payne a late withdrawal prior to kick-off because of headaches.

They might have won had it not been for the yellow card and Gatland's refusal to use his bench and for some, it was a disappointing final appearance in the famous red jersey.

"For a lot of the boys out there, it will be the last time they pull on a Lions jersey," Henderson said.

"Definitely on this tour if not in their careers. For me, It was about taking it in. I thought the fans were fantastic, not only the Lions side but both sides.

"I was shattered and definitely frustrated with the yellow card more than anything.

"However, I think a few of the boys just said, 'Enjoy the experience'.

"There were patches of the game we played really well in and there's an awful lot that we can take from that game."

Whether he gets to put the lessons into action come Test time remains to be seen, but he has certainly put himself in the frame.

HURRICANES - J Barrett; N Milner-Skudder, V Aso, N Laumape, J Savea (C Jane 69); O Black (W Goosen 62), TT Tahuriorangi (K Hauiti-Parapara 69); B May (C Eves 57), R Riccitelli (L Apisai 62), J Toomaga-Allen (M Kainga); M Abbott, S Lousi; V Fifita, C Gibbins, B Shields (capt) (R Prinsep 58).

LIONS - J Nowell; T Seymour, J Joseph, R Henshaw (L Halfpenny 20), G North; D Biggar (F Russell 43-48), G Laidlaw; J Marler, R Best (capt), D Cole; I Henderson, C Lawes; J Haskell, J Tipuric, CJ Stander.

Ref - R Poite (France)

Irish Independent

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