The British and Irish Lions tours are always tough and gruelling. 10 matches cramped into 6 weeks along with miles and miles of travelling can only equal injuries. And that is exactly what happened. Ross Moriarty failed to recover from a nerve injury and was ruled out of the tour. Owen Farrell was ruled out this game and could possibly miss the first test with a quadricep injury. This prompted Warren Gatland to call cup 6 new players, with a few more expected. These include 4 Welshmen in Gareth Davies, Kristian Dacey, Cory Hill and Tomas Francis (each a controversial as each other as they were based on geography not merit) and 2 Scots in Finn Russell and Allan Dell. The Maori All Blacks named a side including the likes of Nehe Milner Skudder, Liam Messam and Damian McKenzie. Both teams had stars and both teams had X Factor so it lined up as a great encounter.
Before any rugby, both teams observed a minutes silence for the travesty of the Grenfell Tower fire in London. Then the British and Irish Lions faced the Maori All Blacks’ haka. Then it was time for the rugby.
Leigh Halfpenny dissected the post twice in the first 10 minutes to give the tourists a 6 point lead until the Maori managed to break through. Nehe Milner-Skudder has suffered with injury since the World Cup in 2015 and his omission from the All Blacks squad was no real surprise but he showed he still had the skills in his locker. The winger knocked a neat grubber through which George North dived on. However the Welsh winger spilled the ball and when Leigh Halfpenny failed to clear up, Liam Messam booted the ball forwards again and the Number 8 pounced on his own kick to secure a try. Yet another lackluster start from the Lions.
Halfpenny responded with a kick of his own but McKenzie quickly cancelled it out with one from his boot. Nonetheless, the Maori All Blacks kept presenting the Lions with opportunities and Halfpenny notched another penalty on the stroke of halftime to give them a narrow lead.
HALF TIME MAORI ALL BLACKS 10 – 12 BRITISH AND IRISH LIONS
The Lions didn’t start how they wanted in the first half but kicked on quite literally when Halfpenny’s boot added 3 more to the score.
Tawera Kerr Barlow was one of the most experienced heads in the Maori team but he didn’t prove his worth as he flew in with a reckless challenge. The scrum half nailed Leigh Halfpenny but didn’t rap the arms and he was, very fairly, shown yellow. It then seemed proved decisive as almost instantaneously, the Lions looked to get their first try. The referee went up stairs only to deny the try as the evidence was inconclusive. They were awarded with a five metre scrum and made no mistake. They were denied once but when the Maori All Blacks pack were shoved right back behind their own line, Jaco Peyper had no choice but to give a penalty try!
The play was relentless and the Kiwis were starting to crumble. Maro Itoje got the next five pointer courtesy of a great Taulupe Faletau carry. Originally the Welshman came just short but the young England second row scooped the ball up and crashed over the whitewash! This is what people have been expecting from the Lions!
With just 10 minutes left on the clock, the Maori All Blacks conceded their thirteen penalty of the night! It was an extraordinary stat and so was the 32 points that the Lions had scored in what people were calling ‘the 4th test’!
A 32-10 victory over anybody is usually considered a thrashing but when you do that to a team full of internationals well that is incredible. Moreover the British and Irish Lions did exactly that and after the hooter sounded that just confirmed it. The men from Britain have well and truly announced themselves to New Zealand!
FULL TIME MAORI ALL BLACKS 10 – 32 BRITISH AND IRISH LIONS