New Zealand put in a strong effort to grind out a 12-8 victory against Great Britain.
Michael Maguire made three changes to his New Zealand side that lost to Australia last week. Kieran Foran, Kodi Nikorima and Joseph Tapine came in for Shaun Johnson, Brandon Smith and Braden-Hamlin -Uele.
Great Britain coach Wayne Bennett also made three changes to his outfit that lost to Tonga last time out. Daryl Clark, Joe Philbin and Jake Connor replaced Lachlan Coote, Luke Thompson and Oliver Gildart.
New Zealand were dealt a blow early on in the game as half-back Foran left the field with a dislocated shoulder and didn’t return.
The Kiwis took the lead though thanks to a Jamayne Isaako penalty goal before Gareth Widdop levelled the score with a penalty goal for the Lions. It was 2-2 at the break, and the sports betting markets suggested that a victory by far margins was an almost certainty.
A piece of brilliance from Roger Tuivasa-Sheck led to Isaako scoring the first try of the game in the 48th minute.
Corey Harawira-Naera then went over to put the Kiwis 10 points ahead of their British counterparts.
Clark gave the Lions a boost when he came off the bench in the second half and scored a consolation try late in the game.
And with a couple of minutes to go, New Zealand back-rower Kenny Bromwich pulled off an astonishing try saving tackle to deny Jermaine McGillvary. The Kiwis grinded the game out to finish 12-8 victors.
Three talking points
Tuivsa-Sheck inspires New Zealand
We all know how much of a good player Tuivasa-Sheck is and he punished the Lions all game with his rapid footwork.
The 26-year-old is regarded as one of the best players in the world and it wasn’t hard to see why on Saturday.
Tuivasa-Sheck tormented Great Britain with his quick steps and explosive carries. He is a special player to watch and is worth the ticket money alone.
Great Britain’s disappointing last tackle plays
Great Britain played very well even though they didn’t win the game. Their set competition was good and they didn’t make many errors.
However, the way the Lions finished sets were disappointing throughout. The kicks from Widdop didn’t trouble the Kiwis, whether they were the grubbers or high balls.
The Lions had a couple of chances to run with the ball on the last tackle near the New Zealand line but they opted for a grubber every single time. If they can improve their last tackle plays for next weekend then they can be confident against the Kiwis.
Shocking ruck speed
The speed of the ruck for the full 80 minutes was so slow, which is unlike an international game between two of the ‘big four’.
The Lions were trying to get quick play-the-balls in the second half but New Zealand were lying down and holding on for too long.
Referee Chris Kendall should have dished out a few more penalties than he did for the Kiwis holding down in the ruck. Some tackles the Kiwis held on for four or five seconds.
Line-ups and player ratings
New Zealand: Tuivasa-Sheck (9); Maumalo (8), Nicoll-Klokstad (7), Manu (8), Isaako (7); Foran (N/A), Marshall (8); Tetevano (7), Nikorima (7), Waerea-Hargreaves (8), Nikora (7), K Bromwich (8), Tapine (8). Subs: Hughes (7), Harawira-Naera (8), Ah Mau (7), Blair (7).
Tries: Isaako, Harawira-Naera Goals: Isaako 2/3
Great Britain: Lomax (6); McGillvary (5), Hardaker (7), Connor (5), Hall (5); Widdop (6), Hastings (6); Hill (6), Hodgson (6), T Burgess (7), Bateman (7), Whitehead (6), Graham (7). Subs: Jones (6), Philbin (6), Clark (7), Walmsley (8).
Tries: Clark Goals: Widdop 2/2
New Zealand deserved the victory and its fair to say that the better team won on the day. The Kiwis are certainly on the rise again.
I want to see the Lions throw the ball around more than what they have done in the last two games. They looked one dimensional against New Zealand.
I thought Clark added some zip and urgency to Great Britain’s attack when he came on. I feel it would be worth trying Josh Hodgson at loose forward and Clark at hooker – the attack might be better for it.