Crusaders win Super final

The Crusaders travelled to South Africa and defeated the Lions in the Super Rugby final.

(Someone mentioned this earlier but I was avoiding it as much as possible, I have just been able to watch it).

The Lions started well but lost the ball hard on attack and the Crusaders opened the score with a try at the other end.

The Crusaders then applied pressure and eventually got another try to open a handy lead.

A Lions player was red carded after a Crusader had a dangerous fall after jumping to catch a kick, unfortunate but the only option to the referee.

The Crusaders gradually stretched their lead, and while the Lions came back with two tries the Crusaders defence was too good for them to get close.

The Lions were unbeaten all season until the final, beating the Hurricanes last week in the semi.

The Crusaders were the other dominant team. The Hurricanes beat them in the final round, and the Highlanders went very close twice, but the Crusaders were just too good through the season and in the final.

Lions series result could have been much worse

Major sports results can swing on small things, like single refereeing decisions. That was the case in the 3rd and deciding All Blacks-Lions test.

There has been a lot of talk about the referee changing a penalty to a scrum in the last minutes, something he shouldn’t have done, perhaps denying the All Blacks a win (if the penalty shot had been successful).

The referee also denied a possible try by not allowing advantage to be played.

The All Blacks were within a whisker of a win, but a different decision could have easily swung the game and the series against them

The Telegraph: Ref Romain Poite could’ve avoided controversy by awarding Lions a penalty for Kieran Read’s challenge

To my mind there were three elements to the decision. The first was whether Kieran Read’s challenge in the air on Liam Williams was legal, and if a penalty should have been awarded to the Lions.

On the first question I disagree with the outcome that Romain and George reached in deciding that Read’s challenge was legal. I would argue that Williams had already taken the space in the air and that Read could not win possession from where he was, even with an outstretched arm.

That is a decision that could have been legitimately changed by video review. Read was lucky to get away with his challenge.

If the penalty had been reversed the Lions would have then kicked for touch and the line out with their throw in would likely have been in kicking range if the All Blacks had then given away a penalty.

We can lament a controversial decision denying the All Blacks a win, but it also saved them a much greater risk of a game and series loss.

Perhaps we should be thankful for the draw. It’s how things ended up anyway, and is now written into history.


Read sums up the 3rd test

All Black captain Kieran Read sums up the third test against the British and Irish Lions:

Referee Roman Poite had originally ruled that it was offside, but after consultation with the television match official downgraded his decision to an accidental offside.

“In my view it is a penalty and I think he ruled it correctly from the start,” Read told Sky Sports.

“I guess when you bring in replays, and everything, you will get different decisions.

It looked to me like the correct decision initially, and changing that decision will be much debated.

“That was not why we didn’t win the game, it was an accumulation of everything throughout the game.

“It was just one of those that goes against you and you have to deal with it.”

The penalty reversal was at a crucial time but it wasn’t a given that the penalty would have been successfully kicked (my first reaction to the penalty being warded was dread that it could be missed), and it was far from the only reason why the All Blacks didn’t win. They made mistakes right through the game that put them in a position where a single decision mattered.

Asked how he was feeling after the game, Read said: “Pretty hollow to be honest.

“You walk away with a draw, it doesn’t really mean much.

It felt a bit hollow for me as a spectator too. But relief it wasn’t a loss.

“I’ll look back on this in the future with a bit more pride, look back on the series as pretty well fought-out.

“Two teams couldn’t be split so that’s the way it goes.”

Meanwhile, Read, who was making his 100th appearance for the All Blacks, believes his side were just not accurate enough with their execution.

“There was a lot of endeavour and hard work from the boys, perhaps we were just trying too hard,” he added.

“We wanted to put in a great performance and it just didn’t click for us.

“Really proud of the lads, we stuck at it. It is hard to know what you’re feeling right now.”

The All Blacks weren’t accurate enough, partly due to pressure from the Lions, partly probably due to pressure of the game situation, and partly just poor execution.

But it was still a top game between two top sides, especially the first half.

The second half was dragged down by too many stoppages but it was still closely fought and tense.

The best team didn’t win – there wasn’t one. In the second and third tests little separated them, and regardless of discussion afterwards it will go down as a drawn game and a drawn series.

That result and the series generally will be good for the future of the Lions.

And it won’t do the All Blacks any harm. They win a lot but can be beaten and don’t always win big games.


Lions-All Blacks 3rd test teams

There is more anticipation for the third test and the British and Irish Lions and the All Blacks than I can remember for a long time outside the World Cup, and it’s getting right up there along side finals in interest.

The All Blacks team for the third test has been announced, with an unchanged forward pack and the selectors going for young prospects rather than experience in a couple of forced changes but Julian Savea replaces Riko Ioane. Jordy Barett has been named at fullback, and Ngani Laumape is at second five with Malakai Fekitoa in the reserves.

The match day 23 for the Test (with Test caps in brackets) is:
1. Joe Moody (27)
2. Codie Taylor (18)
3. Owen Franks (93)
4. Brodie Retallick (63)
5. Samuel Whitelock (87)
6. Jerome Kaino (80)
7. Sam Cane (43)
8. Kieran Read (99) – Captain
9. Aaron Smith (61)
10. Beauden Barrett (52)
11. Julian Savea (53)
12. Ngani Laumape (1)
13. Anton Lienert-Brown (12)
14. Israel Dagg (64)
15. Jordie Barrett (1)
16. Nathan Harris (7)
17. Wyatt Crockett (61)
18. Charlie Faumuina (49)
19. Scott Barrett (7)
20. Ardie Savea (15)
21. TJ Perenara (32)
22. Aaron Cruden (49)
23. Malakai Fekitoa (23)

All Blacks Head Coach Steve Hansen said:

“Firstly, on behalf of the All Blacks and all of New Zealand, I’d like to congratulate ‘Reado’ (Kieran Read) on reaching the milestone of 100 Test matches.

It’s a special achievement to play just one Test, so to play 100 is a remarkable effort. His playing ability speaks for itself and inspires others, and he now joins a unique group of special All Blacks.

We’d also like to congratulate Jordie on making his first Test start in what will be a very memorable occasion for him.

“This final match in the DHL New Zealand Lions Series is going to be a cracker. It’s the Series we expected it to be, as the Lions have quality players. It now comes down to this Saturday – the winner takes all – and that’ll create its own unique pressures and it’s going to be interesting to see how both sides cope with it.

“We’ve had a good week of preparation and are very excited by the opportunity that’s ahead of us, and I’m sure the Lions are as well. We know it’ll be a physical and intense match, but just as importantly, it’ll be a game where both teams will have moments of momentum, and the ability of everyone to adapt and adjust throughout the 80 minutes will be crucial.”

1 News: Lions name unchanged team for third Test against All Blacks

That’s not surprising.

British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland has rewarded his victorious Test players by naming an unchanged team for their tour-ending showdown against the All Blacks.

Lions: Liam Williams, Anthony Watson, Jonathan Davies, Owen Farrell, Elliot Daly, Johnny Sexton, Conor Murray, Toby Faletau, Sean O’Brien, Sam Warburton (c), Alun Wynn Jones, Maro Itoje, Tadgh Furlong, Jamie George, Mako Vunipoloa.

Reserves: Ken Owens, Jack McGrath, Kyle Sinckler, Courtney Lawes, CJ Stander, Rhys Webb, Ben Te’o, Jack Nowell.

I’m looking forward to Saturday night.

All Blacks v Lions – second test

The All Blacks beat the British and Irish Lions comfortably 30-15 last Saturday. The ABs out-thought and out-played the Lions.

The 2nd test kicks off in Wellington tonight. The ABs will be favourites, but it could still easily be closely fought and could go either way.

There are changes from last week.

All Blacks – minor changes to the team with Crotty and Ben Smith out injured, but hardly weakened if at all.

Lions – some significant changes to the team, trying to strengthen to forwards and more attacking in the backs.

Both will have learned from the first test and are likely to vary their tactics to try to outwit their opponents. Who does this best and adapts to the changes the other team brings best will gain an advantage.

Wellington – forecast to be wet and windy, so this will be an influence. It could be a leveller. Or one team could handle the conditions better – the ABs will have more local knowledge so could benefit from that, but they may not be able to play such a fast paced game so may be disadvantaged from that.

There could be a number of tries again, or it could be very tight like a World Cup final or Lions v Crusaders, in which case it could swing on one crucial mistake or one flash of brilliance.

For me again there is more anticipation than for the average test. Really looking forward to see how this plays out tonight.

All Blacks v Lions, 1st test

Crunch time for the All Blacks and the British and Irish Lions tonight as when they meet in the first of three tests in Auckland.



I’m looking forward to this game more than most, due to the difficulty in predicting a winner, and due to the novelty of Lions tours – they come here every 12 years so their last tour was in 2005.


The All Blacks haven’t been beaten at Eden Park this century – their last loss there was in 1994. They have been hard to beat anywhere in the world, but the Irish showed that it can be done last year when they played in Chicago.

They had a romp against Samoa last week but should be game hardened through the players involvement in the Super competition.

The Lions had a mixed start to their tour but have improved and have won their last two games. They will be very strong in the forwards, and are expected to kick ahead a lot to keep things in front of their pack.

It may be wet which may favour the Lions a bit but the All Blacks should be ready to deal with the conditions.

I think it’s anyone’s game, and I’m happy to put them at 50/50 odds.

Roll on 7:35.

A ripping first half. The ABs have put on a lot of pressure and got points but the Lions came back with a top try running it from inside their 22.

Halftime 13-8 to the ABs.

Great game, ABs too strong in the middle of the second half, the Lions came back to score on full time but too little, too late.

Final score 30-15.

Highlanders beat Lions

I went to watch the Highlanders play the British and Irish Lions last night. It was bitterly cold and intermittently wet (there had been light sleet and snow earlier in the day) outside but as usual perfect conditions under the roof.

It was a very good game to watch, quite open at times. The Lions scored three tries to the Highlanders two but failed to convert a couple of late penalties and lost 22-23.

That’s the second midweek loss to the Lions. They will be hoping their weekend team manages to overcome the NZ Maori team this Saturday.

The Highlanders played very well for most of the game but made some costly mistakes. One botched kick set the Lions up on attack after which they scored a good backline try. The Highlanders replied with a try to leave the score at 10-10 at half time.

In the second half the Lions scored from an awful long pass from the Highlanders to put them in front, but the Highlanders made most of the play and scored again. They also nailed important penalties to nudge ahead 23-22.

The Lions missed two penalties, one relatively easy, the other very long range, and that cost them the game.

I had expected the Lions to put pressure on up front and try to out-tough the Highlanders in the forwards but that never really happened.

A nearly full stadium with a temporary stand in the usually empty east end created a great atmosphere, the best in New Zealand under cover.

Lions beat Crusaders

The British and Irush Lions beat the Crusaders in Christchurch tonight, 12-3, all penalties.

Tough for the Crusaders to lose their first game this season, and unusual for them to be kept tryless, but they were outscored and outplayed. The Crusaders were claiming the game as a virtual test, but they weren’t up to it.

This is a good result for the Lions obviously, but an even better result for their tour. It’s a tough one for them but each game will be tough for their opponents.

This result signals that it is game on for the test series. That’s good for the game.


Inappropriate gesture in Blues haka

I didn’t see the Blues haka preceding last night’s game against the Lions, but Missy points out a very poorly considered gesture in the haka – throat slitting. It may or may not have been a planned part as not all players did it.

A piece on the rugby this morning in the Telegraph brings up a valid point that should perhaps have been more thought out by the Blues prior to the game. The writer points out the haka ending with the throat slitting gesture was inappropriate for the game today.

It is in premium, but the relevant part is below:

“Nobody wants it to turn into an international incident, but surely someone in the Blues set-up should have spotted the tasteless juxtaposition.

Holding a minute’s silence for the victims of the Manchester bomb and the London knife attacks and then, immediately afterwards, performing a tribal dance which concludes with a collection of throat-slitting gestures in the direction of the British and Irish opposition.

At the very best it could be described as inappropriate.

It was a real shame, because the Blues had put plenty of work into their bespoke haka to honour those recently departed, including Jonah Lomu. The intention had clearly been uplifting and positive. Alas, the exact opposite proved the case to many of us.”

He has a very good point, considering some of the victims on Saturday night had their throats slit this is something that would not – and probably did not – play well to a British audience. Some in NZ would no doubt take exception to being told this, and get stuck in about what it means and how the British are being culturally insensitive and whatever else the liberals like to say when the Maori culture is being criticised by the British, but I would say that the Blues were being insensitive to their visitors whose homeland had suffered two horrific terror attacks, one which involved peoples throats being cut. It isn’t always about what the reality is, but how it is seen and viewed.

Yes, a very good point. The throat slitting gesture in a haka has been controversial in the past. It should have been obvious it could be seen in a poor light, especially after the London attacks.

It wasn’t all players that did the gesture but from the video at least one did:


Many people find the haka as confrontational and violent at the best of times.

Stuff had a very different take on the haka: Tears from Heaven as Blue haka recalls dearly departed

It was a warm welcome, a chilling challenge, a fond farewell; most of all it was lump-in-the-throat emotion.

It was the first Blues haka, the first haka the British and Irish Lions have faced from a Super Rugby side.

Led by Ihaia West, it was a welcome to 23 men in red, a farewell to two rugby greats who many times played in blue.

On the ground where thousands attended Jonah Lomu’s funeral in 2015, the Blues’ haka paid tribute to the memory of the winger who 20 years earlier reshaped rugby by running around and over several boot-clad unfortunates at the Rugby World Cup.

He Toa Takitini started in the circle the Blues had formed as homage was paid to British terrorism victims, with one minute’s silence.

It was first time the Lions had faced the traditional Maori war dance outside All Blacks tests and the New Zealand Maori.

“We realised we had something missing when we lost a couple of really important players from here – Kurtis Haiu and Jonah Lomu,” Blues high performance manager Tony Hanks said.

He Toa Takitini means “The Strength of Many” reflecting the many cultures in the Blues squad.

A significant part of rugby culture, especially in international games, should be considering your opponents and not making it all about yourself.

A tasteless gesture is poor form under any circumstance, and the throat slitting gesture was quite inappropriate.

Here is the haka performed by the Blues:


Lions versus Blues

The British and Irish Lions play the Blues in Auckland tonight.

The Lions team that runs onto Eden Park will be a bit of an unknown quantity. This will be a challenge for them, they will want to get a tough game under their belts.

The Blues have had a mixed season and could do anything.

I’m not on Sky and won’t pay an exorbitant amount for Fanpass so will just keep an eye on the game progress online.

There has been a shower of run recently (it could still be raining) so it will be a slippery evening.

HALFTIME: 12-10 to the Blues, sounds like a hard fought game in the wet.


NZ Herald: Rugby: Brilliant Blues claim sensational win over British and Irish Lions

What can you say? Typical Blues maybe? There they were, drifting out of the game because their scrum was being destroyed and the Lions were slowly grinding them to defeat and wham, four bits of individual brilliance and they pulled off the most sensational win.

In retrospect the Lions can argue they were hard done by in the Blues’ 22-16 victory. They had a few decisions not go their way, played a bit of rugby and were starting to dominate physically.

But they didn’t nail the door shut and in truth, while they played some rugby, they didn’t play enough.

If nothing else, they looked more organised and willing than they were in Whangarei and while they clearly have a mountain to climb still, there were at least glimpses of what they might be able to do when they have had a few more games together and get their top team on the track.

But the essence of their game remains bump and thump and the question that is going to become louder and louder for the Lions, is where is the x-factor?

The Lions were definitely better than they had been in game one. There was more urgency and accuracy in everything they did and while they didn’t get much beyond playing Warrenball, they didn’t feel they needed to.

It doesn’t get any easier for the Lions, they play the Crusaders this Saturday in Christchurch.