Sun, Jun 11, 2017 - Page 11 News List

Owen Farrell kicks Lions to win against Crusaders

Reuters, WELLINGTON

Flyhalf Owen Farrell yesterday slotted four penalties as the British and Irish Lions produced a performance of Test intensity to beat the Canterbury Crusaders 12-3 in Christchurch to win for the second time on their New Zealand tour.

Warren Gatland’s Lions had been under immense pressure after a mediocre start to their 10-match tour, with an unconvincing 13-7 victory over the Provincial Barbarians and a 22-16 loss to the Auckland Blues on Wednesday.

However, a victory born of a huge defensive effort and the almost unerring boot of Farrell — the one kick he missed looked from TV pictures to have gone over — will give them a major boost as they head to Dunedin to face the Otago Highlanders on Tuesday.

“We can be pleased with our defense, we probably need to be more clinical when we do get line breaks, but we are happy with our turnaround tonight,” Lions captain Alun Wyn Jones said. “We tried to improve from the last game... I wouldn’t say that we were off track, I’d say we are just keeping our momentum going.”

Richie Mo’unga kicked a first-half penalty for the only points for the Crusaders, who have claimed seven Super Rugby titles and won all 14 of their games in the competition this season.

“We didn’t have our rhythm,” Crusaders captain and All Blacks second row Sam Whitelock said. “Full credit to them, they put pressure on us and our mistakes kept them in the game.”

Scrumhalf Conor Murray and Farrell both sent strong messages that they should be the starting Lions halfback combination for the first Test in Auckland on June 24 with their attacking kicking game putting immense pressure on the Crusaders.

The tourists also upped their intensity on defense, shutting down the Crusaders’ attacking options with their fast line speed and forcing them into mistakes.

However, the Lions suffered two injuries, with fullback Stuart Hogg receiving a bad cut above his left eye when he accidentally collided with Murray’s elbow while chasing a high kick.

Center Jonathan Davies, making his first appearance on the tour, also failed a head injury assessment after he was tackled heavily by Mo’unga in the first half.

The battle between the packs had been seen as crucial, with the Crusaders having six All Blacks forwards in their starting side, including the likely starting Test front row.

However, French referee Mathieu Raynal did not allow any momentum to develop and caused a great deal of confusion with some of his decisions.

Raynal’s enigmatic decisionmaking was evident when he penalized Crusaders loosehead prop Joe Moody during an attacking scrum when he had Tadhg Furlong under extreme pressure.

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