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Monday 25 September 2017

Lions will have to be much more clinical

Basic errors need to be cut out for second test says O'Connell

Sean O’Brien goes over to score the Lions’ first try during against New Zealand at Eden Park in Auckland. SPORTSFILE
Sean O’Brien goes over to score the Lions’ first try during against New Zealand at Eden Park in Auckland. SPORTSFILE

"Oh Jesus! Oh Jesus! Oh Jesus!"

Apparently, this was the reaction of our own Paul O'Connell when Liam Williams side-stepped Kieran Read and committed the cardinal sin of running across the field inside his 22, embarking on a lone-wolf counter.

The Welshman straightened up to break the main line of defence and change the landscape from inviting danger to causing it.

"Go on! Go on! Go on!" cried O'Connell, changing his tune.

Once relieved of the low-percentage move, the former Ireland and British & Irish Lions captain rowed in behind the movement, which culminated in Sean O'Brien's glorious try.

This encapsulated the different wavelength of a Munster man and that of a Scarlet.

Therein lies the immense challenge of binding together the conflicting mindsets from opposite ends of the rugby spectrum and having them register at the same pitch.

The Lions have got to hold on to what they did well at Eden Park in the double-scores 30-15 defeat to the All Blacks at Eden Park.

Prowess

For all of New Zealand's attacking prowess, their three tries came from The Lions switching off at the award of a penalty, a scrum penalty and Williams' failure to deal with a high ball.

They were never torn apart by the wide game. In fact, it is a complement to Andy Farrell's defence that coach Steven Hansen chose to change tactics.

Paul O’Connell at the Standard Life Investments exclusive screening of the first British & Irish Lions Test match in Fitzwilliam Square on Saturday. Pic: Inpho
Paul O’Connell at the Standard Life Investments exclusive screening of the first British & Irish Lions Test match in Fitzwilliam Square on Saturday. Pic: Inpho

New Zealand came hard and straight, going through the middle to take away The Lions line-speed.

"They played a really tight, direct game," reflected O'Connell. "When a team has big line-speed, you can't give them opportunities to get off the line and smash you.

"It was very different to what you might consider tight in the northern hemisphere.

"They had a load of subtlety to it, small tip-on passes, backs animated out the back, great footwork, angles of running and speed.

"They were ready for the line-speed and got the better of it."

There is what New Zealand did right and there is what the Lions have to do better in the second test next Saturday.

The tourists have to stiffen up the scrum, cut out the basic errors, wipe out the indiscipline and take the chances created.

This is not about wholesale changes. It is about tinkering with their technique and trusting in the process.

"When we were successful with Ireland, a lot of it was simple stuff, your ball focus, your ability to catch the ball, hold onto it and retain it is really important.

"At the start of the second-half, we get a lineout five-metres out," said O'Connell.

"We turn it over. We get it back. And we turn it over again.

"I think we contributed a lot to the scoreline rather than being completely dominated from the first minute to the last.

"Fair enough, there are pieces of magic you can't countenance for, like Kieran Read's offload.

"Certainly, the scrum five seconds before it, you would expect to be strong there.

"We contributed massively to our own downfall."

Meanwhile, Rory Best will lead The Lions for the second time in Wellington tomorrow morning (KO8.35am, Sky Sports 1).

This means Gatland will probably not be tempted to turn to Best's trademark strengths in the scrum and at the breakdown.

Second row Iain Henderson, number eight CJ Stander and centre Robbie Henshaw will also start, with Jared Payne set for bench duty.

Hurricanes: J Barrett; N Milner-Skudder, V Aso, N Laumape, J Savea; O Black, T Tahuriorangi; B May, R Riccitelli, J To'omaga-Allen, M Abbott, S Lousi, V Fifita, C Gibbins, B Shields (capt). Replacements: L Apisai, C Eves, M Kainga, J Blackwell, R Prinsep; K Hauiti-Parapara, W Goosen, C Jane.

Lions: J Nowell; T Seymour, J Joseph, R Henshaw, G North; D Biggar, G Laidlaw; J Marler, R Best (capt), D Cole, I Henderson, C Lawes, J Haskell, J Tipuric, CJ Stander. Replacements: K Dacey, A Dell, T Francis, C Hill, G Kruis; G Davies, F Russell, J Payne.

Verdict: Hurricanes.

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