Lions find top gear in final tune up

by Sam Phillips

The Lions have hit top gear in their final tune up before taking on the All Blacks, beating the Chiefs 34-6 in Hamilton.

This was a second rate Lions outfit against a second rate Chiefs side but there are signs that the Lions have figured out an identity in their last two starts.

Their defensive work has been top notch, set piece world class and the attack really clicked into top gear tonight.

Jack Nowell was responsible for the spark in attack from the right wing but it was the endeavour from the halves - Greg Laidlaw and Dan Biggar - that allowed the likes of Nowell and Liam Williams to thrive.

The contrasting styles between this Lions side and the All Blacks is the cornerstone for a really intriguing series.Jack Nowell nabbed a double in a superb performance. Photo: Getty ImagesThe Lions are all about controlling possession, playing for territory and a rock solid defence but if they can add the kind of counterattacking flair they displayed tonight, they may cause the All Blacks more trouble than most are anticipating.

The first half was almost identical to the first term in Rotorua, where the Lions starved the Maori All Blacks of possession and the loose ball opportunities upon which they thrive.

They had 60 percent of the ball, 64 percent territory and played risk averse rugby that allowed Biggar to turn pressure into points off the tee.

That was the story of the first 20 minutes as Laidlaw and Biggar controlled the game in the halves, with Courtney Lawes and CJ Stander also putting in quality shifts.Liam Williams added some flair from fullback. Photo: Getty ImagesThe only blip in the first term was a horribly late shoulder charge from Joe Marler - the English prop lucky not to be red carded for a cheap shot on Nepo Laulala.

Nowell was the only try scorer in the 13-6 first term, his five pointer a byproduct of some more enterprising play from the tourists.

After they went wide and Nowell took advantage of an overlap, he popped up for a pick-and-drive two phases later and dived over the line for a well worked try.

The game then kicked up a notch in the second term.

The Lions still had plenty of ball in the Chiefs half but the home side lifted their defensive intensity.The Chiefs had no answer for the Lions tonight. Photo: Getty ImagesThat was exemplified by two enormous hits from Jonathan Faauli - who led the Chiefs well all night.

The tourists were forced to turn to their set piece and it delivered - a rolling maul turning into a penalty try at the 54 minute mark and opening up a 20-6 lead.

That was quickly followed by Nowell's second of the night.

This was a wonderful team effort that started with a sharp turn of foot from Elliot Daly and finished with a balanced, slicing line from Nowell.

The Lions were airborne and they followed Nowell's try with another superb team try from inside their own half.

Liam Williams split a defensive line filled with plenty of Chiefs idly watching and offloaded to Jared Payne, who dived over with 17 minutes to play.


Chiefs 6



Pens: Donald 2

British and Irish Lions 34

Tries: Nowell 2, Penalty Try, Payne

Cons: Biggar 3

Pens: Biggar 2