British Lions

Lions bite back at critics

2017-06-11 09:36
Warren Gatland (Getty Images)

Christchurch - Warren Gatland believes his British and Irish Lions' 12-3 victory over the Crusaders has struck a blow against critics who wrote off their tour of New Zealand.

The Lions' surprise defeat to the Blues saw many doubt their chances of victory in their three-Test series with the All Blacks in the weeks ahead.

But after downing the previously unbeaten Crusaders at AMI Stadium in Christchurch thanks to four Owen Farrell penalties, Gatland says his team are back with a bang.

"It has been a really tough week and there has been a lot of criticism," the Lions head coach said.

"People had written the tour off after two games. That has been challenging for us all. We have had to stay strong within the group.

"The goal was the Test matches and to keep improving towards that," he added before poking fun at his critics: "I hope we didn't disappoint too many people with this result."

Gatland's men produced an impressive display against the previously unbeaten Super Rugby leaders.

Their attacking game still needs work -- they threw away more try-scoring opportunities -- but their line-out worked well and their line speed in defence stood out.

In halves Farrell and Conor Murray, Gatland had stand-out performers at the top of their game.

"We know the quality of players we have. I keep repeating myself, but the more time we have together, the better we will get," Gatland said.

"It was a good performance from Owen. The most pleasing thing was the length of his kicks to touch, that put them under a lot pressure. I thought Conor's kicking game was excellent.

"The Crusaders kicked a lot to us and the pleasing thing for us is we kept our composure and didn't give them an opportunity to score a try through a turnover.

"Our game management improved from some key individuals and Conor was definitely one of them."

The Lions led 9-3 at half time thanks to three Farrell penalties to one from Richie Mo'unga, and in a tight second half, Farrell kicked his fourth penalty 10 minutes from full time.

One concern for Gatland was the injuries suffered by Stuart Hogg and Jonathan Davies.

Both players were forced off in the first half and failed their head injury assessments meaning they will not be considered for Tuesday's game against the Otago Highlanders at least.

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