West try consigns Lions to first loss of NZ tour

West try consigns Lions to first loss of NZ tour

Beginning their preparations for the three-match Test series against New Zealand on Saturday (3 June) against the Provincial Barbarians, the Lions sleepwalked their way to a tour-opening win.

The Ireland centre shook off that issue well enough to start against the Blues, but limped out of the contest in obvious pain - although head coach Gatland insisted Payne is not an undue injury concern. Dan Biggar has a six day turnaround, that's the protocol, so he's not available.

"I was a big fan of his when I was a kid, whether that was performing in league or for the All Blacks", Henshaw said. "If we have to go to set-piece, we will".

But the Blues' chaos rugby - as described by the Lions camp this week - kicked in at the flawless time, as offloads from bustling duo Steven Luatua and Sonny Bill Williams handed reserve first-five eighth West the chance to scoot around Halfpenny and score.

Gatland bemoaned the Lions' profligacy on the penalty front and challenged his squad to shape up quickly.

The Canterbury outfit boast a peerless record of 14 wins from 14 Super Rugby matches this term, and will field an All Black tight-five to underscore the strength of their pack.

"We are facing some of the best rugby players in the world, but we have some of the world's best in this team too, so it will be a fantastic clash".

"It's tough for them", Umaga said. "Look, we are well aware how tough it is out here in terms of the opposition".

"The first two games we have been a bit soft in that area and we've got to be hard on ourselves as players and coaches to tighten up on that", he said.

But when a Blues penalty ricocheted off the post on the stroke of halftime, Sonny Bill Williams - a likely candidate to start for the All Blacks when they play the Lions in a few weeks' time - pounced and Stephen Perofeta's conversion made it 12-10 to the hosts at the break.

"There's been a lot of work done behind closed doors in those aspects of training". These guys have been together seven months and the All Blacks are coming together cold. Unfortunately, and more so in the second half, we didn't get either. The speed of the game is quick, but think we are matching them physically, our attacking shape was better than on Saturday. We've learned a lot from tonight and about the opposition.

Gatland doesn't think there will be much of a difference between the Super Rugby sides and the All Blacks over the remainder of the series.

The Crusaders always loomed as the toughest opponents of the opening 10 days and Gatland has chose to field what appears to be the strongest Lions side yet in a bid avoid what would be a dispiriting second defeat so early on the tour.

"And this is the kind of victory that can stay with them for some time".

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