Saturday 18 January 2020

Which animals have the 2017 Lions resembled so far on tour?

Will the Lions be ready for New Zealand?

(Dan Sheridan/PA)
(Dan Sheridan/PA)

By Max McLean

The British and Irish Lions are getting ready to face New Zealand for the first time in their 2017 tour, but have Warren Gatland’s side earned the name of lions in their warm-up games?

After a sequence of mixed results, the team has roared only on occasion – have they been more reminiscent of another member of the animal kingdom?

Provincial Barbarians 7-13 Lions

Animal: sloth

(Ian Nicholson/PA)

Sloths are pretty sedentary and are quite solitary too – the Lions struggled to get going and didn’t gel properly either in their first game against the Provincial Barbarians.

A nervy victory was secured by the Lions, and while many felt they should have won the game more easily in theory, others were quick to forgive the performance after such a long journey.

A solitary converted try from Anthony Watson and a couple of penalties were enough for the Lions this time – much like a sloth, the Lions did the bare minimum.

Blues 22-16 Lions

Animal: elephant

(Peter Byrne/PA)

Elephants are big powerful creatures, but let’s be honest, a little ungainly. The Lions showed power and strength against the Blues, but were undone by pace and style the like of which they did not seem to have.

A close game that was tightly contested saw a mixture of luck and skill beat Warren Gatland’s men – just before half-time a Blues penalty rebounded off the post and into the hands of Sonny Bill Williams, who artfully placed the ball down for a try.

A stunning Ihaia West try towards the end of the game secured victory for the Blues, with quick hands resulting in a shock defeat for the touring side. Unlike Disney’s Dumbo, the elephant-like Lions certainly haven’t got off to a flying start.

Crusaders 3-12 Lions

Animal: mule

(Adam Davy/EMPICS Sport)

With lots of kicking and the stubbornness of a mule, the Lions responded to defeat against the Blues with a fine performance completely absent of tries.

The Crusaders hadn’t lost a game all season, but that run ended when Owen Farrell’s boot struck four penalties against them with fine kicking that any donkey, mule or horse would be proud of – combined with a defensive effort that managed to shut down a potent attack, the Lions triumphed by nine points.

An encouraging performance, and certainly something more resembling a Lion than the previous game when they made asses of themselves.

Highlanders 23-22 Lions

Animal: springer spaniel

(Ian Nicholson/PA)

While the Lions showed a lot of energy and an ability to work well much like the springer spaniel, their cavalier play meant they conceded more points than they scored.

However, this was an encouraging defeat if such a thing exists – having scored just two tries in their previous three warm-up games, the Lions managed three in a single game this time around.

But the Lions’ bark was worse than their bite – while Elliot Daly’s 57-metre penalty could have salvaged a win, it fell just short, much like Gatland’s side.

Maori All Blacks 10-32 Lions & Chiefs 6-34 Lions

Animal: lion

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Having failed to put consecutive wins together throughout the first four games of their tour, the Lions began to take after their namesake with convincing wins against the Maori All Blacks and the Chiefs.

Against the Maori All Blacks, Gatland’s men showed power, hunted in packs and demonstrated defensive ability and precision kicking – Leigh Halfpenny notched 20 points, while the team seemed to thrive in the wet conditions.

The biggest margin of victory was reserved for the Lions’ final warm-up game. Like lions chasing gazelles there was a huge difference between the touring side and the Chiefs, 28 points in fact, with the Lions demonstrating positivity in attack and discipline in defence.

Will the Lions roar against New Zealand this weekend?

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