Lions tour: Solid Lions dominate inexperienced Chiefs with 34-6 win in Hamilton
The British and Irish Lions have won their first midweek match of their New Zealand tour, comfortably beating the Chiefs 34-6 in front of a sold-out crowd of almost 30,000 in Hamilton.
Coach Warren Gatland's second-stringers brought their typical set-piece domination but also added plenty of flair out wide, scoring their best try of the tour so far against a Chiefs team that were missing nine of their frontline stars.
The scrum was particularly impressive for the Lions while lock Courtney Lawes showed he's up to Test standard providing plenty of competition at the line-out. Irish number eight CJ Stander continued his good form with several strong ball-carries and Liam Williams showed plenty of class and flair from fullback.
Tighthead prop Nepo Laulala was the best on show for the home team, making plenty of solid tackles and looking good with ball in hand in a team that were totally out-classed.
The Lions got the better of the opening exchanges, securing the ball well at ruck-time with Welsh openside Justin Tipuric making an early mark on the match as Dan Biggar slotted an easy penalty for a 3-nil lead after 10 minutes.
Lions prop Joe Marler - who looks like a bit of a bad boy with his mohawk style haircut - lived up to his appearance with a late, no-arms tackle on Laulala and was sent to the sin-bin two minutes later.
The two teams traded penalties before the tourists crossed the line as they stretched the Chiefs from right to left, before first-five Biggar got over the advantage line and winger Jack Nowell dived over the ensuing ruck for a 13-3 lead to the Lions after 28 minutes.
The Lions rush defense was giving veteran Chiefs first-five Stephen Donald little time to orchestrate the attack, while the Chiefs' decision to slide and drift on defense allowed the Lions to make easy ground out wide and get good, quick ruck ball.
Donald added another three points to make the score 13-6 to Lions at halftime, a deserved lead given their set-piece dominance, territory and possession advantage, and solid defensive effort against one of the most dangerous attacking Super Rugby sides.
Perhaps referee Jerome Garces, who'll be in charge of the second test against the All Blacks in Wellington, had been listening to Lions coach Warren Gatland's gripes as Chiefs second-five Johnny Fa'auli was penalised for blocking Nowell's chase of a box-kick which put the tourists into the opposition half which was becoming a common sight.
For a second game in a row, the Lions were awarded a penalty try as the Chiefs collapsed the maul from a five metre line-out, and Chiefs blindside Mitch Brown was subsequently sent to the sin-bin in a big double-blow as the tourists went ahead 20-6.
The Lions then showed they can attack from their own half as the Chiefs lost yet another line-out and the visitors backline broke free from their own 22, blitzing down the left-hand touchline before slinging the ball right as Nowell cut through for his second try and a commanding 27-6 after 60 minutes.
The floodgates were open as fullback Liam Williams, who has to be in contention for a bench spot against the All Blacks in the first test, cut a swathe through the middle of the field to set up former Chief Jared Payne for his first Lions try, increasing the score to 34-6.
That's the way it ended as the Lions earned back-to-back victories for the first time on tour, and impressive ones at that, setting the stage for an intriguing first test battle against the All Blacks at Eden Park.