Maori All Blacks vs British and Irish Lions: Five things we learned

International
by Sam Phillips

The British and Irish Lions made a statement with a massive 32-10 win against the Maori All Blacks.

Here's what we're talking about in the aftermath.

1. Halfpenny the sharpest of shooters

Australian rugby fans are all too familiar with the work of Leigh Halfpenny.

He scored 49 points in three Tests against the Wallabies and he was responsible for 20 of the 32 Lions points tonight.

This Lions team lacks the unstructured flair New Zealand teams have in spades but they are very good in structured play and when they apply enough pressure to force penalties in opposition territory, Halfpenny repeatedly turns that pressure into points.

He holds the key to the Lions' hopes against the All Blacks.

2. Set piece turns the screws

The Lions dominated the set piece play. Photo: Getty ImagesThe Lions scrum was simply superb tonight.

It was the key to the tourists holding 70 percent possession - a remarkable statistic against a team as strong as the Maori All Blacks.

The All Blacks have a set piece as strong as any but this scrum will test it.

If they are able to control that part of the game and use the rolling maul with some sort of proficiency, Halfpenny may have some shots at goal to work with.

3. Itoje the enforcer

Maro Itoje was instrumental in the win. Photo: Getty ImagesThe Lions backrow of Peter O'Mahony, Sean O'Brien and Taulupe Faletau lived up to the hype but it was Maro Itoje that took control of the battle up front.

The English lock is plays with passion and throws himself at everything.

His thirst for physicality and tendency to never take a backwards step is reminiscent of Adam Coleman.

He runs hard, tackles harder and is a defensive maul specialist.

4. Sexton streaks clear

Johnny Sexton kept the Maori All Blacks under the pump with some astute play. Photo: Getty ImagesBefore a ball had been kicked on this tour, Owen Farrell was thought to be the logical candidate for the starting flyhalf gig.

Farrell may be a better kick but Sexton adds an extra layer of complexity to the Lions attack.

He attacks the line with better clarity than Farrell and brings his outside backs into play with just as much poise.

His combination with Conor Murray is second nature and with Farrell a late withdrawal from tonight's match, Sexton looks to have locked the number 10 jersey up for the first Test.

5. Contrasting styles adds to intrigue

If the Lions play like they did tonight in a week's time, we may just have a series on our hands.

The All Blacks are the best attacking team in world rugby but the way the Lions strangled the Maori ABs out of the game tonight adds a bit of spice to this series.

Warren Gatland's side know they can't match fire with fire but if they are able to douse that fire by controlling possession and relying on the boot of Halfpenny, an upset or two may be on the cards.

Join the discussion