Jun 05, 2017
Saracens quartet feature in Lions opener
The Lions survived a nervy first match of their tour of New Zealand in Whangarei, managing to squeeze past a Provincial Barbarians squad featuring head coach Warren Gatland’s son.
After 50 minutes of tense rugby where things weren’t quite sticking for the Lions, the tourists found themselves 7-6 down, prompting the Lions management to bring on a raft of replacements, including a quartet of Saracens.
Mako Vunipola, Jamie George and George Kruis all entered the fray needing to make an impact, alongside Sarries team mate Owen Farrell, who’s presence was almost instantly felt. The flyhalf provided a crucial pass to Anthony Watson who crossed for the Lions’ first try of the tour and then slotted an impressive conversion from close to the touchline to give the Lions a 6-point advantage, with the scoreline now reading a more pleasant 13-7 in favour of the men in red.
Continued pressure from the Barbarians side saw them come close to what would have been a match winning score, but the Lions defence held firm, rounded off by some great work from Sarries prop Mako Vunipola, who managed to disrupt a driving maul and dislodge the ball to win a scrum right at the end of the match.
The Lions’ next game of the tour is on Wednesday, where they will face a Blues side packed full of All Blacks stars. Two Saracens players have been selected for the squad- lock Maro Itoje has been named in the starting line up, with newcomer Liam Williams named amongst the replacements. The game kicks off at 19H35 in New Zealand (08H35 in the UK), at Auckland’s Eden Park, the location of the first test match on 24th June.