British and Irish Lions vs All Blacks: Warren Gatland rues missed chances after defeat by New Zealand

The Lions were beaten 30-15 in the first Test match and must now win in Wellington next weekend to keep their hopes of an overall series victory alive

Jack de Menezes
Eden Park
Saturday 24 June 2017 14:15
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The Kiwi was left disappointed by his side’s failure to capitalise on their “golden moments”
The Kiwi was left disappointed by his side’s failure to capitalise on their “golden moments”

Warren Gatland vented his frustration against the missed opportunities that his British and Irish Lions let slip through their grasp after suffering a 30-15 defeat in the first Test against the All Blacks – a result that leaves his side clinging to their dream of claiming a first series victory in New Zealand for 46 years.

The Lions know that a failure to win in Wellington next weekend will end their hopes of an overall series victory, and their head coach was unhappy with how his squad failed to take their chances in contrast to the clinical All Blacks.

Gatland was still pleased with some aspects of the performance, not to mention Sean O’Brien’s first-half try that even All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen admitted was “one of the best Test tries I’ve ever seen”, but the Kiwi was left disappointed by his side’s inability to capitalise on their “golden moments”.

“I thought we created some great chances, played some lovely rugby and scored some nice tries,” Gatland said after the match. “A couple of golden moments that we could have taken and just switched off when they caught us on a quick tap.”

What Gatland rued the most were the ways in which the Lions conceded tries, with Codie Taylor benefitting from a penalty quickly taken by Aaron Smith to catch out Elliot Daly, while the second came from a decimated scrum where the Lions looked to switch off, expecting the penalty to be awarded against them. The final try, Rieko Ioane’s second, came through Liam Williams’ failed catch attempt, and all three were scores that Gatland believed could have been avoided.

“Elliot Daly said he got caught in no man's lands,” he added. “From a kick the balls' gone through Liam Williams' hands. That's fixable. And a scrum advantage where we missed a first-up tackle.

“So we need to fix those things for next week.”

Gatland has been subject to three weeks’ worth of criticism from the local media with regards to his team’s style of play, so it was no surprise that he took aim at the All Blacks’ gritty, no-nonsense approach which marked a stark contrast to their usual fluidity.

Indeed, it was the Lions who produced some of the game’s best rugby as demonstrated by their first try. It was an end-to-end move triggered by Williams and added to by Daly and Jonathan Davies before culminating in O’Brien’s touch down. Two other eye-catching breaks from the tourists demonstrated their capability to run with the ball from all areas on the pitch.

“The All Blacks haven't played champagne rugby and thrown the ball all over the place,” Gatland said.

Anthony Watson makes a break for the Lions

“We'd come under a bit of pressure in the first half. If we'd scored after half-time that's 13-13. That's an interesting take on the game.

He added: “I thought they played very well up front. They did a good job at stopping our line speed. They came really hard off nine, got some front foot ball and were very aggressive at the breakdown.

Lions tour diary: Lions lose first test match to All Blacks

“We spoke about them potentially trying to slow our line speed down by kicking in behind us a bit more. They came really hard off nine too, very effectively.

“We've just got to make sure we're better at stopping the momentum they create off nine.

“They didn't throw the ball around. In fairness to them they were very physical up front. And you've got to give credit to them.”

The Lions look on after defeat

Hansen was delighted with how his team performed, not least his returning captain Kieran Read in what was his first outing in nearly two months due to a broken thumb. But despite watching the Lions score a try that even he applauded, he could not stop himself from having a swipe at the opposition.

“We felt that we could hurt them if we could get in there, take away their line speed that would let us play some rugby,” Hansen said. “To their credit I thought they were in the game. It wasn't easy, I thought the Lions played magnificently.

“When they can score tries like that first one, you're thinking they should probably do that more often. That's one of the best Test tries I've ever seen.”

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