Jack Nowell scored a double as the Lions ended their mid-week slump with a convincing 34-6 win over the Chiefs at Waikato Stadium.
Here, we take a look at five things we learned from the match in Hamilton.
Before the tour began live-wire English flyer Jack Nowell would have been tipped as one of the test wingers but to date so far on the tour his form has been poor. But against the Chiefs the Exeter man finally delivered with a non-stop two try performance. It’s too late for Nowell to force his way into the first Test side but if he can keep this up he may feature later in the series.
There are just a couple of bench spots left up for grabs for Auckland on Saturday and England utility Elliot Daly looks to have fought off the challenges of Jack Nowell and Liam Williams for the back three reserve. His consistency under the high ball, huge goal-kicking boot and counter-attacking skills looks to have given Daly the edge for the Test bench. His ability to play at centre also helps.
For the second game in a row the Lions kept the Kiwis try-less and this is all credit to defence coach Andy Farrell. The Lions’ swarming defence and line speed completely shut down the Chiefs dangerous attacking weapons, just as they did against the Maori on Saturday. The challenge now goes up a level against the devastating All Blacks but confidence as a defensive unit will be building in the Lions camp.
Towering lock Courtney Lawes may be the most unlucky player in the Lions squad to miss out on the Test 23. Lawes has done nothing wrong all tour and was superb against the Chiefs with nine carries, seven tackles and four line-out wins in a stand out performance. But with Kruis and Itoje the starting locks, Gatland will probably opt for experience on Saturday giving the bench lock spot to Welsh veteran Alun Wyn Jones.
Where many other coaches would have cracked under the pressure, especially after the losses to the Blues and the Highlanders, Warren Gatland has kept his cool superbly on tour even finding the verve to fire a few shots at the All Blacks himself this week about obstruction runners. Gatland has simply blocked out the white noise and kept his eyes on the prize – a Test series victory – something almost impossible to do in New Zealand.
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