The Runner Sports

Anthony Watson Try Gives Lions The Win

In a hard-fought defensive struggle, an early second half try by Anthony Watson allowed the British and Irish Lions to hold on for the win.

With all the discussion and anticipation of this year’s British and Irish Lions tour, the Lions have finally been bloodied. The match featured a great performance on both sides, especially on defense. Many were expecting the match to break loose and become an attacking free for all, but that moment never came. The match featured only two tries and twenty points total between the two teams. The Lions had a difficult time with the attack, especially through the first half. The second half started off significantly better, the half featured a penalty by Greig Laidlaw and Anthony Watson making the Lions’ only try of the day.

For the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians, Bryn Gatland, Lions head coach Warren Gatland’s son, had an amazing performance. His decision-making as fly-half gave the Barbarians their strong push and lead into the second half. Bryn Gatland is currently under contract with the Blues, and after his performance tonight, it is very likely that the Lions will see him again. In a style very unlike a Barbarians team, there was only one try by the provincial side from team captain Sam Anderson-Heather. For being a Barbarians team, they were very well put together and operated well as a unit.

The Lions must come together and settle into better play going forward.

It was easy to see that the Lions were fresh off the plane with their performance today. Johnny Sexton missed a reasonable penalty kick early in the match. Stuart Hogg had a sloppy first half –although his performance in the second worked well to make up for it. The match against the Barbarians is expected to be the easiest match of the tour for the Lions. The narrow victory is bound to concern some moving forward. It is important no matter how ugly of a win that the Lions did win.

Too many people have already looked at this match as if they face the All Blacks tomorrow with no practice in between. This team will grow and improve with time, they just need that time.

Positive takeaways for the Lions

Defense

Many were expecting the match to be a high-scoring affair, but the Lions stopped the Barbarians from holding up their end. Stuart Hogg, for his attacking struggles in the first half, prevented at least two tries during the match and had an all around solid performance defensively. Alun Wyn Jones put in an amazing day defensively as well flying around the field making some very powerful tackles. Anytime a New Zealand team of any level can be held to only one try, theĀ defense is headed in the right direction.

Greig Laidlaw

The late addition to the Lions squad had a great performance on the night. His work at the ruck was perfect and his passes were on point. Although Owen Farrell and Sexton both missed kicks throughout the day, the only time Laidlaw was given an opportunity he was successful. Laidlaw was the brightest light on the Lions and the only one who was not phased by the journey. His case for the scrum-half position throughout the tour has grown in strength in this performance.

A Win is a win

People place too much stock in poor performances against seemingly inferior teams. For the Lions, this was a warm-up match, a way to wet their feet. For the players of the Barbarians, this was their moment. Their chance to showcase themselves as players. Of course, the Barbarians are going to play their hearts out. Ross Moriarty’s line break that led to Anthony Watson’s try was great, and there were a number of brilliant moments by other players as well. Stuart Hogg had a difficult half, but redeemed himself in the second. Ben Te’o had some impressive runs in the match. Jonathan Joseph nearly had a try right at the end of the first half. There was a lot of bad in the match, but enough good to get the win, and that’s all that really matters.

Provincial Barbarians-7

British and Irish Lions-13

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David Bradham

Active duty Navy, have a true passion for Rugby.
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