British Lions

Lions restore old school values

2017-06-04 10:37
British and Irish Lions (File)

Whangarei - The British and Irish Lions may have been widely rubbished for a sub-par performance in their New Zealand tour opener but they won respect for restoring old school values in a professional era.

The scrambled effort to pull off a 13-7 win over a team of nobodies playing under the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians banner was widely panned by critics.

But for the mainly amateur Barbarians, who fit rugby around regular weekday jobs, the highlight was as much about a return to after-match camaraderie as it was about nearly causing a major upset.

In the tightly-scripted professional era, the once traditional get-together in the changing sheds after the game had become a distant memory until Warren Gatland decided his Lions could benefit from socialising with New Zealanders.

As the sellout crowd of 20,000 left Toll Stadium in Whangarei, frustrated by what they had seen from Britain and Ireland's best, the players relaxed together beneath the main stand, bonded by a mutual respect.

"We just walked between the two changing rooms," Barbarians centre Dwayne Sweeney said as he emerged from the changing rooms wearing the number 12 Lions jersey of Ben Te'o.

"I said it was a privilege to play against him. I haven't played Test rugby and he's playing for England," Sweeney said.

"They respected what we put out there tonight. I didn't think I'd ever actually get the chance to play the Lions. It's probably the best moment I've ever had, I loved it."

The Lions, each on a basic tour fee of £70,000 (US$90,000), regrouped Sunday to attend an official Maori welcome before launching into preparations for Wednesday's match against the Auckland Blues.

The Barbarians meanwhile returned to their homes to prepare for their day jobs on Monday in a land where the median annual wage is close to a third of the Lions tour fee.

"It was a hell of an experience and something the boys really enjoyed," said Barbarians skipper Sam Anderson-Heather.

He scored the only Barbarians try as his team took a 7-3 lead at half-time, but memories of the outstanding performance were already giving way to reality for the 29-year-old who runs a property management company.

"I've got a lot of work to get through. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday are pretty full so I'll literally be straight back to work Monday morning," he said. "Life goes on."

Read more on:    british and irish lions  |  rugby
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