The British and Irish Lions go into the first test against the All Blacks at Eden Park in rude health following their performance against the Waikato Chiefs in Hamilton on Tuesday.
The early pessimism surrounding the tour to New Zealand, has given way to optimism as the Lions have steadily improved, providing locals and travelling fans an entertaining evening at the Waikato Stadium on Tuesday night.
The Lions midweek team got past the highly rated New Zealand provincial side 34-6; prompting Chiefs coach Dave Rennie to admit after the match that the B&I Lions strangled the life out of his side.
“When they get settled on combinations I think it will be a pretty exciting series. You’ve got to hand it to them, we battled to get our set piece going and they strangled us," Rennie said, as per The Guardian.
“I’ve no doubt if you’re ill-disciplined the Lions are a side that can put you in a corner and hurt you. We were outmuscled.”
Ah yes, the Lions' physicality! It certainly told against the Chiefs and there was never a more emphatic demonstration of the Lions power play than the tackle by Ireland and Ulster captain, Rory Best’s on one of the Chiefs players.
The Chiefs had just taken a quick line-out when Ulsterman Best decided that there would be no quick counter attack on his watch and produced a huge hit, sending him to the ground five metres out from the Chiefs try line. And knocking the player's shorts down as a result.
He certainly felt that!
In the build-up to the match, the Sky Sports presenters spoke about the differing rugby philosophies between Gatland and the northern hemisphere and Rennie and the south.
New Zealander Gatland’s ‘Warren-ball’ - which focuses on big heavy runners going up the middle of the park and then looking to go wide - has been widely derided as being ineffective/predictable.
In contrast, fellow Kiwi Dave Rennie wanted his team to run, take quick penalties and have a go at the opposition. To their credit, that is exactly what the Chiefs tried to do, they were willing to have a go from anywhere.
However, the Lions overpowered them and slowed the speed of the game down, a tactic Rennie admitted he admired afterwards.
“They did a good job of slowing our pill down and when we came around the corner there was still a bit of a wall there.
“As you saw, you can have all the plans from an attack point of view but if you don’t have your set-piece game nothing happens.”
Rennie coincidently is moving up to the northern hemisphere to take charge of the Glasgow Warriors, once the super rugby season has concluded.
And so the B&I Lions tour continues on Saturday morning against an All Black side which pulverized Samoa last weekend 78-0.
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