Kiwis 'stunned to see such ambition and skill' from the Lions
New Zealand press, by and large, tip their hat to the tourists after Chiefs midweek win
Is Liam Williams a better option than George North on the left wing? Some rugby writers in New Zealand think so.
Condescension or grudging respect? The New Zealand rugby media appear to be struggling to straddle that fine line in the wake of the Lions 34-6 victory over a weakened Chiefs team in Hamilton.
The headline on the New Zealand Herald website proclaimed ‘British & Irish Lions Claim Emphatic Win Over Chiefs’ but Gregor Paul’s tone was well . . . here’s what he had to say in his opening statements so judge for yourselves.
“The Lions have gone all Kiwi on us. The midweek side got into the swing of this pass and catch business in Hamilton and did it rather well. They scored a few tries, looked like a proper rugby team for long periods.
“The pity is we haven’t seen more of it on this tour, but still, to get some at least is a small blessing and so was the heart, commitment and control they showed.”
Whether tongue-in-cheek or not Paul goes on to make some valid points, that Elliot Daly “looks a better option than George North on the left wing” and that Liam Williams “may be just too good an all round footballer to leave out of the 23”.
He also pointed to the fact that the Lions midweek side has restored some pride as a group and also the perception in New Zealand and about the ability of the players.
His colleague Patrick McKendry wrote: “The British and Irish Lions mid-weekers finally got the job done on this tour, beating the Chiefs tonight by first relentlessly grinding away on defence and then, amazingly, scoring their best try of their trip.
The standout score hinted for the first time at what these Lions can do on attack
“The standout score came midway through the second spell, and perhaps hinted for the first time at what these Lions can do on attack. It was a break-out effort, finished by Jack Nowell - his second of the night - and came via several pairs of hands and an appreciation of time and space.
“Many among the crowd of 30,000 were stunned to see such ambition and skill combine so perfectly because there has been precious little of it so far on this trip.” Indeed.
Over on the website www.stuff.co.nz Mark Reason has written an interesting piece about what he sees as a cheating epidemic in New Zealand rugby in blocking off players that are attempting to chase a kick.
It is something to which Lions coach Warren Gatland alluded to earlier in the week and there were further examples in the victory over the Chiefs.
Reason pointed out: “The Chiefs were just as guilty of blocking the Lions runners whenever they tried to chip over the line. The officials for yesterday’s game will all be in place for the first test, with the exception of the TMO, and the Lions had decided it was time to make their case.
“At one point captain Rory Best went up to Garces and said, ‘when we put those little dinks in behind them they’re body checking.’ The Lions are fed up with this sort of nonsense, as the whole of rugby should be, and have decided to make a concerted protest.”
Rugby is an easier game when there isn’t a nail strip stretched out in front of your wheels
Gatland’s argument was that “the frustrating thing for us is the amount of blocking that’s going on. The off-the-ball stuff, it makes it difficult to complete attacking opportunities and situations because there is so much happening off the ball in terms of holding players or subtly holding players. We’ve raised it with the ref already. It’s part of the game in New Zealand, all New Zealand teams at the moment are doing it.”
Reason continued: “They are and, of course, the real name for it is cheating,” bore summing up his opinion piece with the following observation. “Happily on Tuesday night Garces and his fellow officials gave the best refereeing display of the tour and finally came down on cheating.
“Strangely enough the Lions then looked like they could play a bit. Rugby is an easier game when there isn’t a nail strip stretched out in front of your wheels.”
Aaron Goile writing in the Waikato Times under the heading ‘Lions tame Chiefs’ paid tribute to a local boy. “A happier homecoming this time, for Warren Gatland. This time last year the proud Waikato man left Hamilton with a face as red as his Welsh lads’ jerseys after the Chiefs put them to the sword during their series against the All Blacks.
“A year on, the cheeks will probably be described more as rosy, instead, after his British and Irish Lions midweekers kept the tourists’ momentum well in hand ahead of the all-important first test at Eden Park on Saturday, after dispatching the Chiefs 34-6 at FMG Stadium Waikato.
“This was their 10th time playing in Hamilton, and having lost on the past two occasions - to the Maori in 2005 and to Waikato in 1993 when Gatland scored a try for the Mooloo men - they made amends big time, with a team featuring five of those Welshmen from last year.
“For a (Chiefs) side without six All Blacks and four Maori players, it was always going to take something special. They hoped for the exuberance of youth, but in the end, they just had to tip their hat to a touring party who themselves had enough to play for.”