So the Kiwi Press had a field day and called the opening match performance a ‘disgrace to the jersey’. They have already written off the Lions’ chances – well, that is the best news of the tour and will serve as a boost to the squad who already knew that they were up against it. If the tight schedule, lack of preparation, jet lag and lack of sleep wasn’t enough, the length of the season could be a negative too but it actually means that this group of players know they only have four or five games left and they will have easy enough in the tank for that. So don’t worry about the level of intensity – it will be there.
I am not going to over-analyse this result because the Lions were always going to struggle against a hyped up Babas team. Certain fringe players for test starts (Te’o, Moriarty, Sinckler) made a statement, as did those quite fresh after mid season injuries (Faletau, Kruis). The Wales No 8 shone out like a beacon of quality and will soften the blow of the loss of Billy Vunipola. But this squad cannot afford to lose world class players of his standard, because we do not have many, whatever anyone says. I cannot get past the fingers of one hand.
The one beneficiary of this extraordinary match was Bryn Gatland. The coach’s son was an inspiration at 10, and one or two European clubs will have sharpened their pencils on seeing that performance. He varied his game and got his side running great angles – you do not see that much these days from modern fly halves.
What I was looking for was some evidence of the Lions attack game, because I feel they will have to score three tries in the Test matches. Gatland’s ‘play what is in front of you’ throwaway comment recently seemed to be an over rapid reaction to the fears of a conservative game plan for which he is well known. Te’o broke the gain line well but failed to distribute and we will look for that as the tour progresses because he could break into the team.