Vince Lombardi once remarked “You don’t do things right once in a while. You do things right all the time” and this was the painful lesson the Lions had yet once again had to learn on this tour of New Zealand.Lately being against The Super Rugby champions; Hurricanes who kicked and scampered back to life when it looked like they were down and out. Many pundits and correspondents have written and commentated saying what a fabulous game it was .I beg to differ as the Lions were in a position to seize the day and blow away the Hurricanes with their superior talent and strength yet once again they could not cope with kiwi side’s relentless endeavour with ball in hand and collective team spirit .It should have never got to the point of flyhalf Dan Biggar trying to win the game with a long range drop goal attempt.
This unsavoury performance has once again resuscitated some of the uncomfortable issues that many have chosen to sweep under the rug. Firstly the controversial geographical callup of the replacements , the continual dangling of the carrot with the promise of making a test matchday 23 when you have 96 hours to recover and then compete against the best side in the world. Thirdly would be the continued ill discipline of the team and lack of concentration for the full eighty minutes. The Lions had the opportunity to put this game to bed way before the yellow card and in a team of seasoned international players one would think they had the nous to be able to deal with the loss of a player for ten minutes. I was flabbergasted to hear Head Coach Warren Gatland’s comments about not devaluing the jersey , why on earth would he even consider calling them up as cover if they were never going to take to the field ? More importantly when they were there,why did they not get the chance to at least show their wares and try to repay the faith shown to them ? It goes against the “All for One ” motto that is supposed to embody the Lions spirit and will be soul crushing for the chaps confidences. As a collective what kind of ripple effect will this have on the rest of the squad ?
This brings me onto my second point and the need by the coaches to continually tout players with carrot of being able to make the matchday squad 3 days later . Granted these chaps are professional athletes but even if you make it into the test squad chances are you will not be operating at your optimum in then having to face the best side in the world after having expended so much energy trying to impress. I was not totally impressed with performance of the Lions against the Hurricanes , yes they scored three tries but they could deliver the killer blow and pull away from the “Canes”. They were notable contributions from Biggar, Ian Henderson,Courtney Lawes, cameos from Rory Best,Tommy Seymour and George North but these were not really outstanding performances of what I would expect from test capped internationals . Maybe I am being too harsh ? Lawes may have played himself into contention for the second test but that is largely due to the way he is known to play already, bar the head injuries he has suffered did he really need to go out and show what he is capable of ? Ian Henderson had a mixed game as he showcased his brilliance at the breakdown and in loose play but may have yet compromised his chances with a yellow card that cost his team victory. However I don’t think he is totally accountable : The Lions management need to have a closer examination of themselves, it was evident that they needed fresh impetus off the bench when the team lost Robbie Henshaw . Yet they decided to move George North into the centre and Leigh Halfpenny to fullback instead of bringing on Finn Russell. Towards the end of the game it was visible that the side was tiring from the sustained pressure of the revived Hurricanes.
I should not forget the mighty effort displayed by the Hurricanes who perhaps showed that collective team spirit , where each member of the team plays for each other is cultivated over a period of time rather than over a matter of weeks .The Hurricanes driven on by the “little bus” Ngani Laumape, scored two tries in the space of four minutes to draw level and could have won it late on unfortunately hero turning villain with neck roll. With the midweek matches finished we are left with two matches against the All Blacks , how these Lions play will determine how history will remember them.