B&I Lions smash Chiefs in Hamilton
MATCH REPORT: Jack Nowell scored a sparkling try double as the British and Irish Lions ended their mid-week slump in style with a 34-6 win over the Chiefs Tuesday, just four days ahead of the first All Blacks Test.
In Hamilton, home town of Lions coach Warren Gatland, the tourists scored four tries and stopped the Chiefs from crossing the line, providing a morale booster for Gatland's men as the opening Test looms on Saturday.
While the team to play the All Blacks in Auckland is probably already settled, plenty of the Lions' second-stringers put their hands up to feature later in the Test series.
The result ended a sequence of mid-week defeats as the Lions, who earlier lost to the Blues and Highlanders, starved the Chiefs of attacking opportunities.
Nowell's second try showed the tourists can also play with flair, as they took the ball the length of the field and through 10 pairs of hands before the Englishman swerved past two defenders to finish.
It was a potential banana-skin match for Gatland, as Hamilton has proved a graveyard for international teams in the past.
Gatland himself was a hooker for Waikato when they humbled the Lions 38-10 in 1993 and he even scored a try against the team he now coaches.
He was on the other side of the scoreline last year when the Chiefs thrashed his Wales side 40-7 in a tour match.
Before the match, the Chiefs performed a haka in front of the sell-out 30 000 crowd.
The Lions made a promising start in clear conditions, going on the attack after Courtney Lawes stole a Chiefs line-out ball.
But the failure to convert chances that has dogged the tour returned as they worked it through 20 phases, only to fail when Liam Williams knocked on.
Poor discipline could have also cost them when Harlequins prop Joe Marler was sin-binned for a late tackle, but his replacement Alan Dell excelled.
Wing Nowell dived a pile of bodies to score the first try of the match in the 25th minute after some eye-catching build-up play from Williams and Dan Biggar.
The tourists enjoyed 58 percent of possession and 63 percent of territory in the first half, although a penalty from Chiefs' skipper Stephen Donald narrowed their lead to 13-6 going into the break.
The Lions worked the ball through 16 phases after the restart but again failed to score and they were lucky not to concede as the Chiefs showed some quicksilver passing during their rare periods of possession.
But Lions' pressure paid off when they were awarded a penalty try after the Chiefs collapsed their maul for the third time.
Chiefs heads dropped after Nowell's slickly taken try and Jared Payne soon added another when Williams caught the defence napping with a quick restart to set him up and confirm the big win.
Man of the match: Wing Jack Nowell scored two tries in an impressive display, while flyhalf Dan Biggar looked confident on attack. However, the award goes to lock Courtney Lawes for his abrasive and effective play on defence and with ball in hand. He disrupted a few Chiefs line-outs as well.
For British and Irish Lions:
Tries: Nowell 2, Penalty Try, Payne
Cons: Biggar 3
Pens: Biggar 2
Yellow cards: Joe Marler (B&I Lions, 12 - foul play, late shoulder charge); Mitchell Brown (Chiefs, 54 - cynical play, collapsing the maul)
Chiefs: 15 Shaun Stevenson, 14 Toni Pulu, 13 Tim Nanai-Williams, 12 Johnny Faauli, 11 Solomon Alaimalo, 10 Stephen Donald (captain), 9 Finlay Christie, 8 Tom Sanders, 7 Lachlan Boshier, 6 Mitchell Brown, 5 Michael Allardice, 4 Dominic Bird, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Liam Polwart, 1 Siegfried Fisi'ihoi.
Replacements: 16 Hika Elliot, 17 Aidan Ross, 18 Atu Moli, 19 Liam Messam, 20 Mitchell Karpik, 21 Jonathan Taumateine, 22 Luteru Laulala, 23 Chase Tiatia.
British and Irish Lions: 15 Liam Williams, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Jared Payne, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 Elliot Daly, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Greig Laidlaw, 8 Christiaan Stander, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 James Haskell, 5 Courtney Lawes, 4 Iain Henderson, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Rory Best (captain), 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Kristian Dacey, 17 Allan Dell, 18 Tomas Francis, 19 Cory Hill, 20 Alun Wyn Jones, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Finn Russell, 23 Tommy Seymour.
Referee: Jérôme Garcès
Assistant referees: Jaco Peyper (South Africa), Romain Poite (France)
TMO: Ian Smith (Australia)