Lions Tour: UK media reacts to Lions' loss to Highlanders
The British and Irish Lions' late 23-22 defeat at the hands of our southernmost Super Rugby franchise made for yet another less-than-desirable night for the touring side.
As was probably expected, media in the UK has not been kind after the surprise loss - with many Lions fans expecting a fairly comfortable victory over the Highlanders following an encouraging win at the Crusaders days earlier.
- Highlanders win thrilling contest against Lions in Dunedin
- Marty Banks, attitude and scrum 'brought it home' for Highlanders
- Warren Gatland defends Lions performance after Highlanders loss
But while many of Britain's top rugby journalists slated the Lions for their performance in the defeat, others took the chance to praise the Highlanders for their defensive tenacity and running game.
Here are some of the comments to have emerged after last night's game.
Jeremy Guscott - BBC
"Every match on this tour is a reminder of the hosts' quality and a chance to enjoy some of the special talents that New Zealand have in spades.
"Today it was the chance for Waisake Naholo to shine. His pace and power make him one of the most lethal finishers in world rugby and … he can make some magic happen even when play has slowed and a defence seems set. A hand-off, a step, the acceleration, and suddenly something is on. It is just phenomenal individual ability.
"The penalty count was way too high today with 12 conceded. The support for the ball carriers was not strong enough either with the first and second players to the breakdown taking too long to arrive on the scene."
Gerard Meagher - The Guardian
"If a second midweek defeat of the tour has brought the Lions down to earth, there is equally no need for Warren Gatland to panic. There were positives in the 23-22 defeat in Dunedin – they outscored the Highlanders three tries to two after all – but many of their failings against the Blues returned.
"It was a breathless match, the best so far, but the Lions were found wanting in the final stages.
"Both midweek defeats have been inflicted in the final six minutes when, as history has repeatedly shown, New Zealand are able to raise their game. The Lions must at the very least not allow theirs to fall apart."
Austin Healey - The Telegraph
"It strikes me as being typical of far too much of what we have seen of the Lions so far – teams and tactics selected according to the opposition, rather than playing on their terms. Do you think the All Blacks would change Savea's position so he could stop a danger man on the other side? Would they hell.
"At this stage of the tour the Lions should be looking like prize-fighters, ready to take on the world. Instead they strike me as a sparring partner taking punch after punch, in the hope of landing one good shot to knock down the champion.
"Next up are the Maori on Saturday, and they will be looking to land some pretty serious blows of their own. The question is whether the Lions can hit back."
Jonny Fordham - The Sun
"For the Lions, the gulf between the shadow Test side and the mid-week dirt-trackers is growing.
"Throwing away nine-point leads with 20 minutes to go with a remarkable penalty fest will do everything to shatter confidence throughout the squad.
"The Maori All Blacks are waiting next - they will be just as lethal as the Super Rugby sides before them."
Jack de Menezes - The Independent
"The fact that they have now shipped five tries in those two games [against the Blues and Highlanders] shows that something is not right with their ability to cope with the Southern Hemisphere attacking tactics.
"They are yet to work out how to find the right balance in attack and defence while keeping their discipline, and they are starting to run out of time to discover it before meeting the All Blacks.
"Too often they are experiencing a lapse in concentration or a moment of weakness and getting folded over, and given they are yet to face the strongest pack on the tour in the form of the All Blacks, that must be a big worry for forwards’ coach Graham Rowntree."