Jocks Away

In the overall scheme of the tour the result this morning didn’t mean much – no one remembers the midweek games.

However it was a thriller and with 4 tries to three I guess the moral victory has to go to the Hurricanes. Once again the soft hands, offloading and inside pop passes underlined the high level of skills that are endemic in the NZ Super Rugby franchises.

On the plus side for the Lions they didn’t lose – more importantly several players will have enhanced their chances of being in Saturday’s 23.

Greg Laidlaw and Tommy Seymour aren’t likely to be anywhere except in the stands at the ‘Cake Tin’ but they combined for a lovely intercept try and Tommy Seymour scored another to go to the top of the Lions try scorers. A good showing by the two Scottish players and Tommy Seymour may well come into the reckoning for the third test.

Those who most strongly put their hands up were Courtney Lawes, Iain Henderson and Justin Tipuric

And if you read my post on Saturday (‘Wellington Boots’) you’ll see that these were the three new faces that I had in my 23.

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Dan Biggar has had a good tour but remains behind Sexton and Farrell – but not by that much!

The two yellow cards were capitalised on and in the end 31-31 was a fair result.

I thought Romain Poite had a decent game overall and both yellows were probably fair.

You wouldn’t have thought so if you listened to the Hurricanes supporters though – every decision that went against their team was loudly booed!

The one thing that was missed by both him and the TMO was the no arms high tackle on Leigh Halfpenny after he gave the scoring pass to Seymour.

Warren Gatland will name his 23 on Thursday – to remind you  I made my selection straight after the first test in the ‘Wellington Boots’ post!

We’ll see if he has heeded my advice.

On Report

Warren Gatland has come under a disgraceful media attack after he stated that he thought Connor Murray had been deliberately targeted illegally by the All Blacks.

One tackle by Jerome Kaino appears to be the focus of his complaints

A short video of the actual tackle in question is in the link below and to be honest it is inconclusive as to whether it was deliberate or merely poor timing. Based on that you have to give Kaino the benefit of the doubt.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/rugby-union/2017/06/27/jerome-kaino-denies-intending-deliberately-hurt-lions-star-conor/

However the acerbic vitriol from the NZ media is unwarranted – and the disrespectful caricature of the Lions coach is akin to football journalism and demeans the media more than Gatland. They have form for this having done a similar character assassination on Michael Chieka.

They don’t even have the wit or creativity to change the visual – at least the Sun was more witty when they lampooned (again unfairly) the late Graham Taylor.

I doubt Gatland will mind – his probable strategy was to highlight to the officials that this might be happening – those in charge on Saturday will have taken note. A case of ‘the jury will disregard’ or ‘deny everything!’

This is the same media that decried the Lions ‘whinging’ over the tackle on O’Driscoll in 2005 insisting that there was absolutely no case to answer.

At least one journalist in NZ (Gregor Paul) has the courage to dispute this –

History has a priceless capacity to repeat, especially, it seems, when it comes to Lions tours to New Zealand.

In the last few days, it has been hard to remember whether it is 2005 or 2017. It has felt like 2005 all over again with the conduct of the All Blacks having incensed the British Lions coach and trial by media having ensued.

That was the scenario 12 years ago after the first test. The Lions were angry that an obvious act of foul play by the All Blacks had gone unpunished.

Their rage was understandable and justified – the incident just 42 seconds into the test ruled Lions captain Brian O’Driscoll out of the series with a dislocated shoulder.

The fact Tana Umaga and Keven Mealamu escaped any censure remains a blight on rugby officialdom and whether that was pivotal in shaping the series or not, it didn’t rob the Lions of their right to feel aggrieved in those first few days after the first test.

It will be interesting to see if Connor Murray gets any late hits in Wellington – I suspect not – in which case Gatland will have won that small battle.

 

The Weeping Willow – a Fairy Tale

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.

Once upon a time there was a girl called May who lived in a cottage with a big black door. She didn’t like the ghastly poor people in the village and ordered PC Plod to always be in front with his shiny sub machine gun to stop her having to talk to them.

May loved to play outside and sit under her very special tree at the bottom of the garden. She was sad though – she had no friends at all.

This was probably because she had told all the poor people that it was an ordinary willow and not a magic money tree.

The one day a girl came along who actually wanted to be friends with May – her name was Arlene.

Oh what fun they had playing and they made up a nasty game that let them be in charge of all the villages everywhere.

May even told Arlene about the magic tree.

May was so desperate to keep Arlene as her horrid friend that she gave her all the money and said bollocks to the poor people who started to weep, just like the willow! Jesus Wept!

The End (of integrity and hope)

Final Audition

Tomorrow morning the Lions play their final midweek game which will then leave just the second and third tests to complete the tour.

The game is against the 2016 Super Rugby winners, the Hurricanes.

It is a formidable team (as they all are in NZ?) –

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The backline is virtually made up of all (or near) All Blacks and, given the ball and space can cause any side problems.

Centres Vince Aso and Ngani Laumape are the leading try-scorers in Super Rugby, while fullback Jordie Barrett has been a revelation on attack for the Wellington outfit. There are also two All Blacks on the wings in the form of Julian Savea and Nehe Milner-Skudder. In the pack, blindside flank Vaea Fifita is a right handful.

After the first test Warren Gatland has said that there are places up for grabs in Wellington and there are a few players who will fancy their chances –

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My own feeling is that Courtney Lawes, Justin Tipuric and  Iain Henderson are those with the best chance.

Several pundits have suggested that George North could still make the test team – frankly I think he will need a hell of a game to put himself in contention.

Both sides will be up for it – I have the Lions by 13

A New Addition

Although the Lions ended up being well beaten in the first test they did score a brilliant end to end try starting with Liam Williams running from his own 22.

There is a video on YouTube that is entitled British Lions – 10 Greatest Tries –

 

This now needs to include the one that Sean O’Brien finished at Eden Park –

 

 

Certainly would make the top 3 in my view – maybe even number one with BOD in Brisbane.

To be fair it’s much harder to score against ABs than Wallabies.

Fire Storm

 

Much has been written about the tragedy at Grenfell House and there is much scurrying around to shift responsibility and blame rather than dealing with the victims, their families and others who live in similar fire traps.

Jonathan Pie, as always, has a take on the disgraceful behaviour since the fire –

I couldn’t have put it better myself!

Still the MP landlords are doing all they can to help eradicate poverty – although only for themselves sadly (and I suppose, inevitably!)