Jump to main content


Much-Improved Lions Lower Crusaders’ Colours

Much-Improved Lions Lower Crusaders’ Colours

The British & Irish Lions produced a much more cohesive performance as Owen Farrell kicked them to a hard-earned 12-3 win over the Crusaders, New Zealand’s leading Super Rugby outfit who were on a 14-match winning streak.


CRUSADERS 3 BRITISH & IRISH LIONS 12, AMI Stadium, Christchurch
Scorers: Crusaders: Pen: Richie Mo’unga
British & Irish Lions: Pens: Owen Farrell 4

HT: Crusaders 3 British & Irish Lions 9

Google Ad Manager – 300×250 – In Article

Seven Ireland players saw action in Christchurch, with Conor Murray provided excellent service from ruck to ruck and his tactical kicking – including one brilliant touchfinder in the first half – continually causing problems for the Crusaders rearguard.

The Limerick man really hit the ground running in his first match of the tour, while Tadhg Furlong, Peter O’Mahony and Sean O’Brien all made key contributions in the scrum, lineout and open play respectively. O’Brien’s tracking down of Richie Mo’unga to thwart a dangerous Crusaders break showed he is back in great physical condition.

Jonathan Sexton, Jack McGrath and CJ Stander also made their presence felt off the bench. It was Sexton’s third game in the space of a week but he looked back in the groove during his 50 minutes on the pitch, operating slickly in a 10-12 axis with Owen Farrell. He was a prominent figure in two second half attacks which should have led to tries.

The clinching try remained out of the Lions’ reach – they needed a 71st minute penalty from Farrell to seal the deal – and their lack of tries so far on tour will be a concern for Warren Gatland and his fellow coaches. Perhaps their best opportunity arrived on the hour mark when Stander, fresh on as a replacement, fumbled a pass from Sexton deep in the 22.

Pumped up by a memorable haka, the Crusaders failed to gather Farrell’s kick-off and it took a George Bridge intercept to prevent Jonathan Davies from releasing his Welsh colleague George North as the Lions immediately threatened wide on the right.

The Lions were able to put pressure on Codie Taylor’s lineout throw throughout, an early overthrow allowing Murray the chance to clear downfield. That was repeated on their own ball a few minutes later, Murray finding a great touch and then O’Mahony stealing Taylor’s throw before a maul set up Farrell’s first three-pointer of the night.

The Lions’ lead was doubled in the 17th minute as Farrell punished Joe Moody for a scrum infringement. The set piece was an area of frustration for the hosts in the first half with an early push also being whistled up by French referee Mathieu Raynal.

Stuart Hogg was then caught by an accidental elbow from Murray as he chased his own kick. The unfortunate Scot required stitches and Anthony Watson replaced him at full-back for the rest of the game. Shortly afterwards, the Crusaders pack finally unleashing a powerful scrum as they drove over the top and won a penalty near halfway.

The dewy conditions made for a greasy ball but the Crusaders, who have been averaging five tries per game this season, began to make inroads as the half wore on. Out-half Mo’unga opened their account with a penalty, 25 minutes in.

Farrell’s restart evaded the clutches of Luke Romano, though, and the onrushing Liam Williams did really well to gobble up the loose ball. Murray’s quick passing invited the Lions forward, inching closer to the posts before centre Davies could not hold onto Farrell’s feed as he tried to dart through a gap.

Davies’ night was ended prematurely by a head injury, prompting Sexton to come on at out-half and Farrell to move into midfield. Within two minutes, the latter punished a Crusaders offside at a maul to give the Lions a 9-3 advantage.

Scott Robertson’s side had a couple of decent opportunities before the interval, O’Brien’s ability to keep pace with the fast-breaking Mo’unga proving crucial as did a subsequent tackle from Murray and Jamie George’s handling of a cross-field kick.

Both O’Brien and Ben Te’o were strong in the carry for the Lions, making hard yards time and again, and while Gatland’s men ended the half in Crusaders’ territory, it took some quick reactions in defence to deny hooker Taylor a 35th minute try as he tried to muscle in under the posts.

The Lions should have added to their six-point lead early in the second period, but Farrell missed a penalty he would convert nine times out of ten and winger Williams spilled Te’o’s poor pass on the left wing with the Crusaders looking stretched.

O’Mahony was revelling in the ultra physical confrontations up front, while tighthead Furlong was rock solid in dealing with two All Black looseheads, Moody and his replacement Wyatt Crockett, albeit that the Crusaders scrum did improve as the match progressed.

The Kiwis gave a glimpse of their class in attack with a tremendous break from Jack Goodhue, who was able to find a gap in between Farrell and Sexton. He dashed over halfway and kicked cleverly for George Bridge, however the winger knocked on as he attempted to gather and another try-scoring chance was lost.

With the hour mark in sight, English flyer Watson increased his threat from deep. Watson and Williams combined in almost clinical fashion on the left, the Welshman’s slight knock-on just ruling out a try for Watson who had done well to latch onto a kick, swivel and scramble up to the line.

The Lions had another near miss soon after when excellent footwork, pace and hands from Watson saw him release Sexton on the left, the Dubliner driving hard up into the 22 and linking with Stander who unfortunately failed to hold onto the inside pass.

Gatland called for reinforcements, Maro Itoje and McGrath thrust into the fray with Ken Owens and Dan Cole not far behind. Still only six points in front at 9-3, the Lions desperately needed the next score that their dominance warranted.

Murray’s pinpoint kicking continued to turn the Crusaders’ back-three, Williams was getting no end of joy down the left wing, and when the home side were offside, Farrell made no mistake for a 12-3 lead with just under ten minutes remaining.

And in the face of fierce pressure, the Lions continued to shut down the Crusaders’ much-vaunted attack with Sexton and Taulupe Faletau pairing up for a 74th-minute choke tackle which forced an important turnover. Their efforts typified what was a terrific defensive display from the tourists who held on to return to winning ways and claim a serious Super Rugby scalp.

TIME LINE: 13 minutes – B&I Lions penalty: Owen Farrell – 0-3; 17 mins – B&I Lions penalty: Owen Farrell – 0-6; 25 mins – Crusaders penalty: Richie Mo’unga – 3-6; 31 mins – B&I Lions penalty: Owen Farrell – 3-9; Half-time – Crusaders 3 B&I Lions 9; 44 mins – B&I Lions penalty: missed by Owen Farrell – 3-9; 71 mins – B&I Lions penalty: Owen Farrell – 3-12; Full-time – Crusaders 3 B&I Lions 12

CRUSADERS: Israel Dagg; Seta Tamanivalu, Jack Goodhue, David Kaetau Havili, George Bridge; Richie Mo’unga, Bryn Hall; Joe Moody, Codie Taylor, Owen Franks, Luke Romano, Sam Whitelock (capt), Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, Matt Todd, Jordan Taufua.

Replacements used: Ben Funnell for Taylor, Wyatt Crockett for Moody, Michael Alaalatoa for Franks (all 51 mins), Quinten Strange for Romano (56), Jed Brown for Bedwell-Curtis, Mitchell Drummond for Hall (both 62), Tim Bateman for Bridge (66), Mitch Hunt for Mo’unga (74).

BRITISH & IRISH LIONS: Stuart Hogg (Glasgow Warriors/Scotland); George North (Northampton Saints/Wales), Jonathan Davies (Scarlets/Wales), Ben Te’o (Worcester Warriors/England), Liam Williams (Scarlets/Wales); Owen Farrell (Saracens/England), Conor Murray (Munster/Ireland); Mako Vunipola (Saracens/England), Jamie George (Saracens/England), Tadhg Furlong (Leinster/Ireland), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys/Wales) (capt), George Kruis (Saracens/England), Peter O’Mahony (Munster/Ireland), Sean O’Brien (Leinster/Ireland), Taulupe Faletau (Bath/Wales).

Replacements used: Anthony Watson (Bath/England) for Hogg (20 mins), Jonathan Sexton (Leinster/Ireland) for Davies (29), CJ Stander (Munster/Ireland) for O’Brien (56), Maro Itoje (Saracens/England) for Kruis, Jack McGrath (Leinster/Ireland) for Vunipola (both 62), Ken Owens (Scarlets/Wales) for George, Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers/England) for Furlong (both 66). Not used: Rhys Webb (Ospreys/Wales).

Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France)