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New Zealand Reaction To Wellington Game.

16th June 2005 By Munster Rugby

New Zealand Reaction To Wellington Game.

“But if that was the test team, it’s a brave bookie who would rate them favourites to beat the All Blacks at Jade Stadium in Christchurch next week.”

The Lions have got their tour back on a winning track after they beat Wellington 23-6 last night, but it it was far from a convincing performance.

On a night that had seemed tailor-made for the stereotype of British and Irish rugby, the Lions were disjointed and often awkward. Lauded by coach Clive Woodward as the best-prepared squad ever to fly out of Heathrow, they look a side still getting to know each other which has to be great news for the All Blacks with the first test only nine days away.

On a Wellington night that was cold and wet, with the wind swirling around Westpac Stadium, the Lions did what was required to win. Victory alone will have provided a measure of satisfaction after the 19-13 loss to New Zealand Maori last Saturday.

But if that was the test team, it’s a brave bookie who would rate them favourites to beat the All Blacks at Jade Stadium in Christchurch next week. Even with the difficult conditions and they were far from conducive to running rugby the Lions looked a team short on ideas.

They seem almost caught between a desire to attack with the ball in hand and the knowledge that they are supposed to be a side that can monster the opposition up front. Neither happened last night and the result was that the Lions were made to work hard by a scratch Wellington team that never looked like winning, but played with passion and aggression.

What should be sobering for Woodward and his phalanx of coaching staff is that Wellington were missing seven of their top players, had only one day of training and should have been trounced if not on the scoreboard then at least by the Lions’ overall dominance.

The Lions enjoyed a wealth of possession and territory, especially in the first half, but used it poorly, often lacking the polish to capitalise on the breaks they made.

It was a night for lineout drives, and the pick and go, with first five-eighth Jonny Wilkinson plugging the corners till the weight of possession turned pressure into points. There was some of that, with Wilkinson kicking two first-half penalties, but not enough and England’s World Cup hero had a stilted night away from the kicking tee.

The Lions should have scored in the 30th minute through lock Ben Kay when No 8 Martin Corry was dragged down just short of the line. All Kay had to do was stop, pick up the ball and place it over the line. Instead he tried to do it on the run and the ball was lost forward. It summed up the Lions’ night.

When they did score, it was with a wonderfully worked move by three of their best players last night. Halfback Dwayne Peel found a massive hole in the Wellington lineout and then found Corry on his shoulder, who had loosehead prop Gethin Jenkins ready to score a wing’s try.

The crowd of 39,000 had to wait almost as long in the second half till the Lions scored again, when Welsh wing Gareth Thomas scooped up a dropped ball, kicked ahead to regather and score.

He gave the crowd a victorious “Come on,” but it seemed out of kilter in a game that fizzled more than it fizzed. By Jim Kayes – The Dominion Post.

The Lions got the win they desperately needed last night, but beating an average Wellington by 17 points is a long way from challenging the All Blacks in 10 days.

They scored the only two tries of the match on a miserable night in the capital before a near capacity crowd, but should have done so much better. They enjoyed the vast bulk of the territory and possession, dominated the Wellington scrum from the start, but were guilty of squandering half chances.

The problem was a mix of anxiety to get things right after last weekend’s demoralising loss to New Zealand Maori, plus muddled running, hesitancy and butterfingers.

Still, there were some encouraging signs. The forwards attacked the breakdown area with an increased ferocity and succeeded several times in turning over Wellington possession. The lineout work was generally impressive and several players put their hand up for test contention.

Up front, none did better than Welsh prop Gethin Jenkins, who was outstanding around the field, put in a couple of decent hits and got the opening try, a reward for smart backing up. New faces Jason Robinson and Gareth Thomas did well on the wings.

Thomas grabbed the second try in the dying minutes, beating the defence to the ball after a smart kick ahead, and ending a messy period of sloppy to-and-fro football.

Jonny Wilkinson, who kicked five from seven, was a bit up and down, with some of his tactical kicking leaving plenty to be desired. However, the pick of the backs was Welshman Gavin Henson, who was good value with his boot, defended soundly and had an eye for setting up his outsides.

The Lions should have had more than one try in the first half. They had the wind and the lashing rain at their backs and the vast bulk of territory, but they weren’t able to make those edges count. Wellington, for their part, recognised it was a case of hanging on. They defended stoutly, even if their scrum was in trouble from early on.

Wilkinson, who chucked out some dreadful passes, got the Lions on the board with a ninth minute penalty from a handy range. He missed another attempt from 38 metres before doubling the lead midway through the half when the Wellington scrum shot up.

But by then Thomas had sliced through, courtesy of a nice bit of work from Henson. However, an untimely slip by Thomas on the turf ended that.

The first try should have come on the half-hour when No 8 Martin Corry had surged to the line before being tackled by Mahonri Schwalger. Lock Ben Kay arrived and had only to gather and fall over, but instead fell over himself and spilt the ball forward.

The Lions first try was cleverly worked by halfback Dwayne Peel, who looked lively against pugnacious Piri Weepu, a few minutes later. He ducked through the Wellington lineout and fed Corry. Corry passed to the hardworking Jenkins, and he charged the last 15 metres to score.

Jimmy Gopperth’s second penalty kept Wellington seven points adrift at halftime, but Wilkinson increased the margin early in the second spell.

Ma’a Nonu was well controlled by the Lions defence, but produced one lovely break, skipping round Thomas in a tight space on the left, kicked ahead and caught fullback Josh Lewsey near the left corner.

From there, Wellington had some moments of pressure, No 8 Thomas Waldrom coming close after charging through only to be penalised a metre off the Lions line.

The second half largely drifted along, with the Lions in control for most of the time, but unable to apply the coup de grace until Thomas obliged with his late try. By David Leggat – The New Zealand Herald.

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