Jack Nowell scores brace as clinical British and Irish Lions tame Waikato Chiefs
Winger Jack Nowell scored two tries as the British and Irish Lions ruthlessly exploited a yellow card for Waikato Chielfs flanker Mitchell Brown to register a 34-6 victory in their final tour match before the opening All Blacks test on Tuesday.
The Lions were awarded a penalty try, which resulted in Brown receiving his 10-minute sojourn on the sidelines, then Nowell and Jared Payne both touched down while he was off the field as the visitors' sustained pressure finally paid off.
A Maori warrior presents the match Taiaha to Rory Best of the Lions after the match between the Chiefs and the British & Irish Lions at Waikato Stadium on June 20, 2017 in Hamilton, New ZealandGetty Images
Fly-half Dan Biggar added three conversions and two penalties in the Hamilton encounter for the Lions, who now head to Auckland to face New Zealand in the first match of a three-test series on June 24.
Captain Stephen Donald slotted two first half penalties for a Chiefs side put under constant pressure from the visitors, who retained the ball for long periods and smothered any attack.
The Lions had held a 13-6 lead at halftime but once referee Jerome Garces issued Brown the yellow card for collapsing a lineout drive and awarded a penalty try, the visitors put the game beyond doubt.
"They suffocated us and scored some great tries," Donald said. "Disappointing in front of a great crowd that we just couldn't get going but we have got no complaints. "They were just too good."
Lions captain Rory Best said:
" We're very happy, this was a tough fixture. We came here tonight to mix it up. We felt we had a good pack, a good scrum and that we could maul them. But at the same time we didn't want to limit ourselves and when we get decent ball you see what the backline can do."
The Lions suffered defeats to New Zealand Super Rugby sides Auckland Blues and Otago Highlanders earlier in the tour, but Tuesday's win and Saturday's 32-10 triumph over the Maori All Blacks will give them hope of competing in the test matches.
Finally the midweek Lions have a win under their belts. It's been a tough run for the Tuesday team, but a few starters made a strong case for selection in the test series.
Courtney Lawes was magnificent again in the second row, producing one outrageous tap-tackle and showing a level of physicality that could have seen him picked ahead of Alun-Wyn Jones for the first test. But another withdrawal for a head injury assessment (his second such incident in a week) should rule him out.
Elliot Daly is another who strengthened his test chances, coming off after 60 minutes following a well-rounded display that could well see him picked ahead of George North on Saturday. Whether he starts or not, Daly's form and versatility mean he's almost guaranteed a place in the 23.
Waikato Chiefs' players run onto the pitch for the rugby match between the British and Irish Lions and the Waikato Chiefs at FMG Stadium Waikato in Hamilton on June 20, 2017Getty Images
Liam Williams did his chances of being picked at full-back no harm at all with a lively display, while Dan Biggar and Jack Nowell - who are both out of the running for the test team as it stands - were also impressive in a back division that showed good understanding at times.
CJ Stander's excellent ball-carrying won't have gone unnoticed by a coaching pack who like that sort of thing, but there wasn't enough from Justin Tipuric to suggest he's going to make a bolt into the starting line-up at the weekend.
Joe Marler's needless sinbin will have been enough to show Gatland that he's too much of a liability to make it into the squad in the absence of injuries, while Dan Cole and Rory Best's lengthy shifts were solid enough but didn't pull up any trees.
The Test XV is taking shape, but will it be good enough? We'll find out on Saturday.