B&I Lions sound warning with Maori demolition
MATCH REPORT: The British and Irish Lions issued a strong warning of their own, recording a comprehensive 32-10 win over New Zealand Maori in Rotorua on Saturday.
The morale-boosting victory comes a day after the All Blacks' 78-0 shut-out of Samoa and one week out from the first Test.
The Lions dominated all aspects of the game and had more than 80 percent of the territory in the second half - a clear sign of the stranglehold they had on the game.
Such was their overwhelming control, boosted by the scavenging of Sean O'Brien, that they also enjoyed more than 70 percent of possession.
After turning 12-10 ahead, a penalty try soon after half-time and try from lock Maro Itoje - when the Maori had a man in the sin-bin - gave the Lions complete control at a wet Rotorua.
Leigh Halfpenny scored 20 points - through six penalties and a conversion - to maintain his 100 percent goal-kicking record.
The Lions' confidence-boosting win, after last Tuesday's loss to the Highlanders and a week before they face the All Blacks, underscored how the first Test in Auckland will be a battle of contrasting styles.
While the All Blacks ran from all angles in their 12-try win over Samoa this past Friday, the clinical Lions stuck to their formula of mixing a kick-and-chase game from Conor Murray with strong driving forward play.
They had the better of the Maori in the air and at the breakdown, and they dominated the scrums in the second half.
But despite an abundance of ball and territory they struggled to beat a tenacious Maori defence and get across the line.
The Lions did, however, successfully shut down the Maori backs and young All Blacks Nehe Milner-Skudder, Rieko Ioane and Damian McKenzie - all considered exceptional ball-runners - had few opportunities.
The one time Milner-Skudder featured it produced the game's opening try, when he slipped through a gap and kicked ahead.
George North failed to field the ball, allowing Liam Messam to charge through and touch down on 12 minutes.
It was not until the Maori were down to 14 men, with scrumhalf Tawera Kerr-Barlow yellow-carded for a cheap shot on Halfpenny, that the Lions benefited with their two tries.
The first was a seven-point penalty try when the Maori forwards, already on a warning from referee Jaco Peyper, gave way in a five-metre scrum.
The second try went to Saracens lock Itoje, who barged over after another Maori scrum disintegrated.
While the pre-match focus was on the Lions' loose trio of Taulupe Faletau, O'Brien and Peter O'Mahony, it was Itoje who was the towering force among the forwards.
By the time Kerr-Barlow returned to the fray, the fight had gone out of his forward pack and the Lions forwards were able to rumble forward with confidence.
When the Maori had a full complement of 15 on the field, the Lions camped deep in enemy territory but they could not score a try.
Halfpenny landed four penalties in the first half with McKenzie converting Messam's try and kicking a penalty for the Maori.
In addition to the two tries in the second half for the Lions, Halfpenny added a further two penalties and a conversion.
Man of the match: YTou van look at the power of the forwards, both collectively and individually, with Maro Itoje perhaps marginally the best. However, the key plays were made among the backs. You have to acknowledge the boot of Leigh Halfpenny, but flyhalf Jonathan Sexton and scrumhalf Conor Murray were the most influential - with our award going to Murray.
Moment of the match: There is no doubt the penalty try in the 50th minute signalled the end of the Maori resistance and showed the true power f the Lions team.
Villain: There is no doubt that New Zealand Maori scrumhalf Tawera Kerr-Barlow is fortunate his yellow card was not red - as his cheap shot on Leigh Halfpenny could have caused serious damage. Liam Messam deserves an honourable mention for his constant off-the-ball niggle.
For New Zealand Maori:
For the British and Irish Lions:
Tries: Penalty try, Itoje
Cons: Penalty try does not require a conversion, Halfpenny
Pens: Halfpenny 5
Yellow card: Tawera Kerr-Baelow (New Zealand Maori, 47 - foul play, shoulder charge)
New Zealand Maori: 15 James Lowe, 14 Nehe Milner-Skudder, 13 Matt Proctor, 12 Charlie Ngatai, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Damian McKenzie, 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Liam Messam, 7 Elliot Dixon, 6 Akira Ioane, 5 Tom Franklin, 4 Joe Wheeler, 3 Ben May, 2 Ash Dixon (captain), 1 Kane Hames.
Replacements: 16 Hikawera Elliot, 17 Chris Eves, 18 Marcel Renata, 19 Leighton Price, 20 Kara Pryor, 21 Bryn Hall, 22 Ihaia West, 23 Rob Thompson.
British and Irish Lions: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Ben Te'o, 11 George North, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Sean O'Brien, 6 Peter O'Mahony (captain), 5 George Kruis, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Jamie George, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 Iain Henderson, 20 Sam Warburton, 21 Greig Laidlaw, 22 Dan Biggar, 23 Elliot Daly.
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Jérôme Garcès (France), Romain Poite (France)
TMO: Ian Smith (Australia)
Agence France-Presse & @rugby365com