West try hands Lions 1st loss on tour of NZ

Doug Mendoza
June 8, 2017

The Lions were quick to counter, creeping deep into the Blues' 22 for the final minutes of the game.

Stander's try and five points from Halfpenny's boot were the reward for an encouraging start, but tries from Rieko Ioane and Williams put the Blues ahead at the break.

Williams slotted in on the left wing with Elliot Daly moving to centre, but the Blues were dominant.

For coach Tana Umaga, the victory serves as the high point of his 18 months in charge, after producing two successive wooden spoons in the Kiwi conference.

The first Test against the All Blacks takes place on June 24.

"They are a tough side - there's a lot of internationals in the team". "We had success back then but that was back then".

But the tourists, fielding a completely different line-up to the one that started last week's victory - with 11 of them Lions debutants - suffered from a lack of discipline against a Blues side that is now bottom of the New Zealand Super Rugby conference.

The Lions slipped up 22-16 to the Blues on Wednesday, with Sonny Bill Williams setting Ihaia West free for a stunning late winning score.

Alun Wyn Jones will captain the British and Irish Lions in Saturday's crucial clash against the Crusaders, with Warren Gatland dropping hints on his potential Test line-up.

But the Lions worked their way tirelessly back into the game, drawing two penalties which Halfpenny kicked to edge the Lions into a slender 16-15 lead.

But in a thrilling finale, a superb Williams offload released West, who crossed the tryline to complete a scintillating attacking move.

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Sean O'Brien is fit to start at openside flanker despite coming into the tour with a hamstring complaint, while in the back line Conor Murray makes his first appearance at scrum-half. Now if Rory Best can just get his lineout throws right?

"It would be disappointing if that were the case", Gatland said. "We came here to build on Saturday's performance".

It was the Lions who applied the early pressure and Jared Payne was unfortunate not to open the scoring when, after punting a loose pass forward, he lost a race with the ball for the dead ball line. "It's obviously going to be a step up, we're well aware of that".

"If we have to go to set-piece, we will". "My strength is not just the strength of my of, but it is the strength of many", was the message sent out by this Haka and the Blues looked like a united and determined bunch before the match began.

British and Irish Lions coach attack coach Rob Howley has dismissed the "Warrenball" label aimed at the tourists after seeing their tour of New Zealand start with a turgid win over the Provincial Barbarians.

They struggled again in a game played at pace and were unable to dictate the pace of the game through their control of possession.

Congratulations to the Auckland Blues on a fantastic game - a once in a lifetime opportunity was grabbed with both hands.

Liam Williams is the only man to undermine his test chances. He returned to the Blues lineup for this match after a lengthy break with a knee injury and was unaffected by his fast during Ramadan.

Halfpenny converted and then added a simple penalty following a powerful scrum surge and with Stander, Courtney Lawes and Rhys Webb impressing, things looked promising for the visitors.

But Williams' try on halftime swung the match.

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