Lions dealt second loss by heroic Highlanders

Super Rugby
by Sam Phillips

A second string Highlanders side and the boot of Marty Banks has sunk the Lions for the second time this tour, as the men from Dunedin recorded a heroic 23-22 victory.

It was an extraordinary result which matched the extraordinary standard of this match.

The lift in intensity in that the Lions brought to their clash with the Crusaders, both in contact and at the breakdown, was present from the opening whistle tonight.

The forwards, namely Rory Best, Kyle Sinckler and CJ Stander, carried well and were immense at the breakdown.

Sam Warburton was one of the best players on the ground in the second half and Joe Marler, Best and Sinckler were similarly immense at scrum time, where they dominated the home side in the first half.

Jonathan Joseph was the Lions' best attacking threat all night. Photo: Getty ImagesJonathan Joseph starred at outside centre - the Englishman's duking, dangerous runs creating attacking spark missing from the Lions' performance thus far.

But the Highlanders matched the tourists every step of the way and their set piece play in the final quarter won them this game.

It was a scrum penalty which led to a Marty Banks penalty goal that was the fatal blow after coming back from a 22-13 deficit with 25 minutes to play.

Despite all of that, it was the Highlanders that struck first.

Lima Sopoaga opened the scoring with a penalty after four minutes and Dan Biggar followed suit ten minutes later.

The home side scored the first five pointer of the night at the 26 minute mark when Waisake Naholo took advantage of an obstruction to streak over untouched from 15 metres out.Malakai Fekitoa carved the Lions up. Photo: Getty ImagesReferee Angus Gardner and TMO Marius Jonker deemed the play to be fair after Gardner had awarded the try but there was no doubt the Lions were unfairly hindered.

The Lions hit back through Jonathan Joseph, the outside centre taking advantage of a two-man overlap to turn on the jet shoes and slice through to level the score at 10-all as the teams headed for the sheds.

The first Lions lead came three minutes after half time, as Tommy Seymour picked off a woeful Lima Sopoaga cross field kick and ran 40 metres untouched to score.This Sam Warburton try couldn't get the Lions home. Photo: Getty ImagesSam Warburton followed suit 10 minutes later, the skipper catching the Highlanders breakdown defence napping to pick the ball up and surge to the line from 10 metres out.

But the tourists allowed the home side back into the match from the ensuing kick off when Jared Payne dropped the restart.

The Highlanders camped inside the Lions half for the next five minutes and eventually, Liam Coltman fell over the line off the back of a rolling maul, Marty Banks converted and the home side were only looking at a 22-20 deficit.

That was then followed by the Banks sealer with five to play, the final nail in the coffin for the Lions' second loss on this tour.


Highlanders 23

Tries: Naholo, Coltman

Cons: Sopoaga, Banks

Pens: Sopoaga 2, Banks

Lions 22

Tries: Joseph, Seymour, Warburton

Cons: Biggar 2

Pens: Biggar