|Maori All Blacks v British and Irish Lions|
|Maori All Blacks (10) 10|
|Tries: Messam Cons: McKenzie Pens: McKenzie|
|British and Irish Lions (15) 32|
|Tries: Penalty try, Itoje Cons: Halfpenny Pens: Halfpenny 6|
The British and Irish Lions gained a confidence-boosting win as their power told against the Maori All Blacks in wet conditions at Rotorua International Stadium.
Leigh Halfpenny kicked them into a half-time lead with Liam Messam scoring for the hosts.
The Lions’ forwards dominated the second half and scored with a penalty try from the scrum.
Maro Itoje then drove over four minutes later as they eased to comfortable win.
Warren Gatland’s side came into the game with two wins from four games, following Wednesday’s 23-22 defeat by the Highlanders.
That made this a must-win game and Gatland went with power in a bid to neutralise the dangerous Maori attack.
They did just that with a combination of defence and precise kicking to pin the Maori back.
A tight first-half saw Messam pounce to score an opportunist try after George North had fumbled Nehe Milner-Skudder grubber kick.
But that was a rare foray into the 22 for the Maori and the hosts barely got out of their own half after the break as the visitors’ power told in the pack.
They scored in the 10 minutes the Maori were without Tawera Kerr-Barlow after the scrum-half was yellow carded for a dangerous tackle on Halfpenny.
Many of the Lions team that started the game in Rotorua played themselves into contention to start the first Test against the All Blacks on Saturday, 24 June.
Forward power wins the day
It was no surprise that the Lions’ two tries came from the pack.
They were imperious throughout the match, winning all of their scrums and line-outs.
The scrum brought the first try on 51 minutes, as the Maori forwards, defending their 5m line, were forced to turn it illegally, with referee Jaco Peyper given no choice but to give the score.
Minutes later and it was another scrum, another score. This time Taulupe Faletau drove from the base but was held up just short of the line, and Itoje, who had been outstanding all game, picked and dived over from close range.
With his forwards excelling in the wet conditions, albeit against a disappointing Maori side, Gatland might be praying for rain in Auckland in a week’s time.
Peter O’Mahony, who started as captain, was excellent in the back row alongside Faletau and Sean O’Brien and tour captain Sam Warburton will not be an automatic starter in Auckland.
Gatland’s first XV takes shape
With Owen Farrell an injury doubt for the first Test, England centre Ben Te’o performed the perfect audition to nail down the number 12 jersey.
The Worcester back was the visitors’ most dangerous attacking threat, running 70m and was able to break the gain line against a big, physical side.
His centre partner Jonathan Davies was another who excelled in the tricky conditions and both could start in midfield against the All Blacks.
Ireland half-backs Conor Murray and Jonathan Sexton looked nailed on for the nine and 10 jerseys, while Halfpenny, with his metronomic kicking, will be hard to dislodge at 15.
While George Kruis looked one-dimensional in attack, his leadership of the line-out will be invaluable to Gatland, and Itoje’s all-action game means he will surely start at lock.
Anthony Watson, despite being starved of possession, did enough to suggest he could start against the All Blacks, but doubts remain over North’s form on the opposite wing.
More to follow.
Maori All Blacks: J Lowe; N Milner-Skudder, M Proctor, C Ngatai, R Ioane; D McKenzie, T Kerr-Barlow; K Hames, A Dixon (capt), B May, J Wheeler, T Franklin, A Ioane, E Dixon, L Messam.
Replacements: H Elliot, C Eves, M Renata, L Price, K Pryor, B Hall, I West, R Thompson.
Lions: L Halfpenny (Wales); A Watson (England), J Davies (Wales), B Te’o (England), G North (Wales); Sexton, C Murray (both Ireland); M Vunipola, J George (both England), T Furlong (Ireland), M Itoje, G Kruis (both England), P O’Mahony (capt), S O’Brien (both Ireland), T Faletau (Wales).
Replacements: K Owens (Wales), J McGrath (Ireland), K Sinckler (England), I Henderson (Ireland), S Warburton (Wales), G Laidlaw (Scotland), D Biggar (Wales), E Daly (England).
The tour schedule
|3 June||Provincial Barbarians||Won 13-7|
|7 June||Blues||Lost 22-16|
|10 June||Crusaders||Won 12-3|
|13 June||Highlanders||Lost 23-22|
|17 June||Maori All Blacks||Won 32-10|
|24 June||New Zealand|
|1 July||New Zealand|
|8 July||New Zealand|