Yesterday I predicted that the NZ media would savage the Lions for the way they played against the Chiefs.
And they did – well, there’s a surprise – especially after they’ve been so complimentary about the Lions, their management, and the off-sides in defence. About the only thing they haven’t criticised is what the squad have for breakfast – and that’s probably because the stuff is knocked up by Kiwi chefs.
However, it wasn’t anywhere near as vitriolic as I’d expected – they paid a grudging respect to the Lions whilst underlining the missing ABs from the Chiefs side.
Here are a few snippets –
LIAM NAPIER (STUFF.CO.NZ)
The scoreline suggests this was a homecoming to savour for Warren Gatland. But if the former Mooloos hooker turned Lions coach is honest with himself, that is half true at best.
Many of the midweek Lions are not up to it.
Four days out from the first test at Eden Park, the Lions have to look elsewhere for inspiration. It didn’t come at Waikato Stadium.
RICHARD LOE (NEW ZEALAND HERALD)
The Lions again showed their power and value with their victory over the Chiefs, but gee they can play negatively.
You could argue rugby broke out in the 58th minute when Jack Nowell raced across for his try, but before that it was dire for patches.
The Chiefs were awful, something that was only really matched by the performance of referee Jerome Garces, who is in charge for the second test. He must have a holiday home in somewhere like Swansea, judging by a couple of those early penalties.
Still, the Chiefs didn’t show their full capability and it was cruel they missed so many frontline players. The tight five played well with the ball in hand, but the Lions roasted them at scrum time.
There was also the unusual phenomenon on the Chiefs’ early lineout ball where the tourists appeared to be making noises to disrupt the call.
That was ordinary, and something you might expect at under-15s or third XV level.
AARON GOILE (STUFF.CO.NZ)
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.
In reality, the result wasn’t going to mean much in the bigger scheme of things, but after their confidence-building win over the New Zealand Maori in Rotorua last weekend, these Lions didn’t want to surrender any of their newfound inspiration.
PATRICK MCKENDRY (NEW ZEALAND HERALD)
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.
Warren Gatland’s mid-week battlers will be triumphant at such a resounding victory against what was very much a Chiefs’ B or even C team, but the result, while deserved and good for those involved in the red jerseys, will have little or no impact on the first test at Eden Park on Saturday for virtually none of them will be involved in it.
As Always Gregor Paul was the most balanced – recognising the Lions are quite entitled to play whatever style they like in trying to win. He doesn’t like it, but he understands the practicality =-
The single-mindedness of the Lions is both admirable and yet such an enormous barrier to them being a team that anyone will look back on and remember fondly.
They are the antithesis of the 1971 Lions – a team that shook New Zealand free of its own obsession with the exclusively physical and opened eyes to the full array of skills that can be nurtured.
The Lions are exclusively muscular and direct. Fair play if they win the series – they will deserve every accolade that comes their way, but victory still won’t make them a team that changes mindsets around the world.
He may be right in some of this – but with a single crucial exception – if the Lions win they will be remembered for a long, long time in Britain and Ireland.
Finally a shocking article from Chris Rattue – shocking because it is actually positive!
New Zealand rugby took another blow to the ego as an increasingly impressive Lions team ripped the embarrassing Chiefs apart in Hamilton.
Overblown haka performances aside, it’s been the British and Irish Lions who have done the most impressive stamping, made the ground shake, since their early fumblings in the north.
Sir Graham Henry was among those who believed the Lions had accepted an itinerary from hell, but hardly anyone envisaged that the flames would be singeing New Zealand rugby’s reputation.
The whole article is worth a read – not least for the praising of the Lions