So the much anticipated Lions series has come to a close, and both teams ended up winners? Losers? Who the fuck knows! It was a great 10 weeks of code none the less, and at the end of the day, code was the winner.
I thought I would list from my biased and opinionated eyes what I took out of the series.
10) The majority of the midweek games don’t mean fuck all:
Don’t get me wrong, it is awesome seeing the clubs getting their chance to make a bit of history. But the Lions now bring so many players; they clearly had a midweek team and a test team (not to mention the “reinforcements” ). Nothing at all wrong with that, but when you’re trying to say that they’re fucked cause they lost to the Blues and Highlanders, you do need to take a step back and realise none of the combinations that play in these games will be starting vs the All Blacks.
9) Kieran Read is too passive to be the All Blacks captain:
This was the first real test of Read’s captaincy, and in my view he had a shocker. You could get the feeling he was too much of a pushover to be captain from the press conferences over the last couple of years, where the spotlight still seems to be too much for him. But for the first time under his reign, where he really needed to make his voice heard on the pitch, he failed.
The start of the second half in the second test was where this was most obvious. The Lions were clearly giving penalties away to stop the All Blacks momentum, half a dozen in quick succession. Not once were they warned about it, and the words “yellow card” were not even mentioned. The refs feel no pressure because it doesn’t look like Read cares? Read should have been all over that! In the refs ear, but he just let it be. Read needs to be more vocal and get more aggressive with his voice. He is a helluva player, but I wonder about his captaincy.
8) Beaudy Barrett and the kicking
It has been the cloud that has hung over his head, ever since he became the All Blacks #1 first 5. It has never really mattered to much, due to the dick hidings we had been copping out over recent years, but we all knew that it would hurt us at some point.
After a flawless 7/7 in the first test and his form in Super Rugby leading in, we all thought that maybe it had worked itself out, but unfortunately we were wrong. Barrett isn’t to blame for this, we don’t have a class goal kicker that is good enough to start for the All Blacks currently (Maybe Marty Banks? 😛 ), but it is an issue, and it has to be sorted by the time the RWC comes around. The 3 penalties from out in front that he missed, would mean a 3-0 whitewash.
7) Izzy Daggs Gamble
When Izzy signed on to stay with NZ rugby, I personally thought it was a mistake. He had just finished his best season in 2-3 years and was at personally at his highest earning potential. With his injury list as well, I could see the decision backfiring.
However he started and played 80mins in all 3 tests. He was a standout performer in the first test and was solid in the third. The second test was a bit of a shambles for everyone involved. Fair play to the guy, especially after missing most the super rugby season. I think the wing is now his international footy position, as he is not as effective when in the 15 shirt.
6) Maro Itoje and Jonathan Davies
World class. No two ways about it. When the Lions needed something big, or some go forward ball, more often than not these two delivered for them. Itoji is almost a lock to skipper the next Lions team, and Davies is the #1 centre in the game currently. It was a pleasure to watch these two go to battle.
5 This chat the All Blacks are now on the sliding slope is BS
I find this chat from the UK media and Rattue etc fucking LOLZ. For one, we were facing the best collection of UK talent ever. England, Ireland and Scotland are all playing their best rugby in a decade or ever. Wales is a team that on their day can beat anyone (except the ABs). This was always going to be a huge battle to win.
Second is that when we are fully fit, we are a completely different side. The AB’s team playing the 2nd and third test were far from our number 1 side, and we still managed to stick with them and even with 14 men.
When we are fully strength and have 15 players, still no one comes close currently. In saying this, the next RWC in Japan has all the makings of a ripper. A number of teams working towards peaking at the right time.
4) Backline inexperience
Credit to Laumape and Jordie. They made their international starting debuts in an absolute pressure cooker. Second only to a RWC final I would say. But we missed sorely just some old heads in the midfield / Ben Smith who could have settled the team in that third test. The amount of pill dropped was ridiculous, from both forwards and backs, and as a result, didn’t allow the All Blacks to build sustained pressure.
Some credit here has to go to the Lions defence, but I think if we had a player with 30+ tests in that midfield, they would have held onto the pill a bit more, reset and moved onto the next phase, rather than trying to force something that wasn’t there.
3) Gatlands Game Plan
Warren Ball was heavily criticised heading into the tour. Direct running and not expansive footy. Well Gats played a fantastic hand and I think deserves a lot of credit. The rush defence enforced was a master stroke, and really limited the NZ sides to attack. It was clear as well that the Lions were told to give away penalties in non threatening areas of the field, before they could be put under pressure. The amount of penalties given away 50-40 metres out was criminal. Daring the All Blacks to get Beaudy to have a shot (why wouldn’t you) or accepting 3 points over a possible 7 or yellow card. Smart rugby.
In attack, although not pretty at times, they did throw the ball around and produced the try of the series in that first test.
There is a good argument that he out coached Shag in this series.
It is a real shame that the refs had such a crucial impact on this series. There were some incredibly bad calls made, and one potentially series deciding mistake at the end.
The one thing that is really starting to really fuck me off, is the going upstairs when the kicker is about to kick the conversion to check a potential error, 20 phases back. Once the try is awarded, that should be final. Same with a fucking penalty, when 3 of the 4 refs all agree it was a penalty. FFS!
2) Extra Time
The look on all the players faces, the people in the stands, the people in the pubs and even those sitting on the dunny live streaming from their lappy; no one wants a drawn series!!!!! It is a nothing result. In a test series, there should be extra time or golden point to get a result. I would have rather lost than drawn the series. At least you then know how to feel etc. A drawn series feels like a loss low key anyway.
1) Lions Tours Are Not dead
All this chat about the Lions being on the way out, that the series is losing its pulling power etc is bullshit. You could tell that the regions were behind it, the games were all sell outs and the Lions supporters were having a blast. You have to give it to travelling UK fans, they are one of a kind. It was amazing seeing the atmosphere they created in stadiums in NZ. The singing and chanting they bought (oh and some of the shorties). Something that the kiwi fans can learn to adapt.