After a disappointing result for the British and Irish Lions on Saturday (against New Zealand in the first test) a travelled Lions midweek team lined up to face the Hurricanes, 2016 Super rugby champions. The Canes were not as changed as many of the other sides with many of their full strength backs on show; Beauden Barrett the main man missing. However, they could still boast the likes of Nehe Milner-Skudder, Jordie Barrett, Vince Aso, Ngani Laumape and of course New Zealand’s 46 try gem in Julian Savea. The British Lions were in for a tough challenge which meant the fans were in for a treat!
This was the first game on tour with a tribal reference not massively on display. Dane Coles (who was not playing) handed Sam Warburton (who was also not in the 23) a Karawai Coat; a Maori coat.
The Lions took an early 3 point lead when Dan Biggar dissected the posts right before Greig Laidlaw sliced through. Otere Black threw a quick pass which Laidlaw picked off and began to stretch his legs. Vince Aso used his speed to track back and bring the Scot down but the scrum half popped the ball up to another fellow countryman in Tommy Seymour and with Aso down, it would be a stroll. Seymour had gas and nobody could lay a finger on him as he ran in from halfway! Biggar converted plus struck a penalty to bring the Lions tally to 13 while the Hurricanes sat with nil.
The Lions had been brilliant in defence with both Iain Henderson and Courtney Lawes leading the way. The multiple phases of mighty defence couldn’t hold out forever though and Callum Gibbins, supported by Vince Aso, managed to flop over the line. Romain Poite took a long and hard look and saw the grounding of the ball so blew his whistle to signal try!
The Canes looked to ignite a comeback but it was short lived when Biggar, after hitting his third penalty, hoisted a kick into the air. Nehe Milner-Skudder positioned himself under the towering kick but failed to beat the onrushing Leigh Halfpenny as he leaped higher and hit the ball back. Iain Henderson scooped it up and used some very deft hands to work the ball to George North. North ran a nice line and much like Seymour, nobody could touch him as he weaved a passage to the line. The Brits were running riot!
HALF TIME HURRICANES 7 – 23 BRITISH AND IRISH LIONS
For much of this season Ngani Laumape has shone above Vince Aso but in this game, it was all about Aso. The Lions defence were up fast and the man I have been hyping up gave a superb inside ball which put Julian Savea through a gap that wouldn’t have been there but for the skills. Savea then produced some magic himself by timing his pass to perfection out to Ngani Laumape! Laumape finished powerfully with a huge bump off on Dan Biggar to allow him over the line. Now for the second time it looked as if a comeback was on!
Nonetheless, the Canes seemed to blow any chance of a victory. Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi flew in on Jack Nowell and connected with his head/neck area. The contact was not too big and Nowell was falling already. The benefit of the doubt was given to Tahuriorangi however, he still saw yellow.
The visitors exploited the man advantage through Tommy Seymour’s second. Dan Biggar flung a dangerous, wide pass out aiming for Jack Nowell. Nehe Milner-Skudder flew out the line looking for the intercept but when the ball beat him, the Lions had a 3 on 1. Nowell passed to Halfpenny who in turn found Seymour and he crossed the line.
Iain Henderson was playing a blinder but he suddenly ruined his performance with a yellow card. The TMO contacted Poite about ‘potential foul play’ and it was clear that he had tipped Jordie Barrett in the ruck. They did not know it but that was to be a massive turning point…
Instantaneously, the ball was kicked into the corner and the Hurricanes pounced on the opportunity to score. After 8 phases of the forwards trying to batter over, they eventually shipped it out to Jordie Barrett and the backs. Barrett swung a pass outwide to Wes Goosen and the replacement was unmarked so dashed over untouched! The game was slowly being turned on its head!
The Lions were beginning to suffer against the relentless attack of the Hurricanes. Break after break they soon edged to the five metre line. Dan Cole looked extremely tired and when he failed to cover the space near the ruck, the Canes scored. Vaea Fifita’s pick and go meant he made it over the line and despite the Lions appeal for knock on and the use of TMO, it was awarded. Barrett’s conversion was simple and as it sailed through, the scores were somehow all tied up!
The Lions midweek sides seemed to have sorted their issues out but after some lackluster defending, their hopes of victory had gone to pot. They did have one small glimmer of hope when Dan Biggar sat back in the pocket and attempted a drop goal. It was poorly struck and dropped just short! Milner Skudder tried to keep it in and run it back but had no luck and that was full time. Only the 4th draw ever for a Lions team in New Zealand!
FULL TIME HURRICANES 31 – 31 BRITISH AND IRISH LIONS