Lions bounce back with Crusaders win

The British and Irish Lions ended the Crusaders' unbeaten year with a dominant defensive display, winning 12-3 in Christchurch on Saturday.

Two penalties from Owen Farrell settled the tourists down, with a third effort and three points in response from Richie Mo'unga making the score 9-3 at half-time.

A second half filled with half chances rather than full ones and dominated by defence failed to produce any points until the 70th minute, when Farrell added his fourth penalty to ultimately seal the win.

Still struggling to break through the defence deep in opposition territory, this was much improved across the board from the Lions, whose spine for the Test series is beginning to take shape.

The Crusaders meanwhile were strangely subdued, lacking the flair of we have enjoyed watching all year long in Super Rugby and making more handling errors in one match than they usually would across two or three. 

This was billed as a Test match and it played out like one too, the Lions' rush defence stopping the hosts from getting the ball wide to their dangerous runners. The Lions' attack certainly needs work, but there was reason to celebrate here too, first-half injuries to Stuart Hogg and Jonathan Davies aside.

This was a sharper start for the Lions, creating an early try-scoring chance when Davies was put into space, only for the final pass for George North to go begging.

Over-eager in defence, two penalties pinned the Lions deep only for Codie Taylor to come up with a costly overthrow at the lineout.

The Lions were starting to settle, more assured with their exits from their 22 and then taking the lead after 12 minutes through a penalty from Owen Farrell.

Conditions as so often is the case in Christchurch were leading to spilled passes, which cost the Crusaders when a knock-on under the high ball from Mo'unga led to a scrum penalty, Farrell stepping up again to make it 6-0.

Having been penalised twice the Crusaders' scrum needed a response, and it came after the Lions lost Stuart Hogg for treatment following a nasty accident, the Scotland full-back running full-out into the elbow of Conor Murray and requiring plenty of attention from the medical staff.

The Crusaders' attack, firing all the season, took a far few minutes to find a line break but as soon as Bryn Hall found some space from an inside pass the Lions were scrambling, giving up a penalty which Mo'unga fire through the posts.

Restarts again for the Crusaders were an issue, the pod missing the ball and Liam Williams pouncing in behind to put the Lions in range. Davies however couldn't hang on as he rushed onto a pass with the line beckoning.

The Lions centre was soon off for a Head Injury Assessment, their second after losing Hogg, but continued to grow in confidence with Farrell landing a third penalty after the Crusaders went offside.

As ever the hosts' threat from turnover ball was always there, Sean O'Brien doing well to scramble back and contain Mo'unga. In their scramble however the Lions infringed, and after kicking to the corner the Crusaders though they had burrowed from short-range, the TMO unable to confirm. 

Back to the corner went the Crusaders only for Taufua to knock-on coming round the corner, pumping the Lions up. From a scrum penalty they cleared, a multi-phase attack in the Crusaders' 22 coming to nothing before half-time, the Lions ahead 9-3.

A rare Farrell miss, the ball sailing over the top of the posts, let the Crusaders off the hook having been under pressure at the start of the second half.

Just when the Lions might have been getting comfortable Jack Goodhue reminded them how dangerous he can be, catching out Farrell with a spectacular side-step to set up a clean break, only for George Bridge to spill the ball with the line approaching.

The TMO was soon in action again, confirming a Williams knock-on and ruling out a possible Lions try, as the game threatened to open up, Watson breaking clear but having to slow down for support from Sexton, the chance disappearing as a result.

All the defensive work from the Lions was starting to tell on the Crusaders as the hosts tired, a switch between Farrell and Sexton kickstarting the latest attack which produced a penalty following the Crusaders' excellent defensive stand on their own line.

Farrell stepped up, making it four out of five on the night and 12-3, the final points in a morale-boosting win for the Lions after Wednesday's setback in Auckland.

The scorers:

For Crusaders:
Pens: Mo'unga

For British and Irish Lions:
Pens: Farrell 4

Crusaders: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Seta Tamanivalu, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 David Havili, 11 George Bridge, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Jordan Taufua, 7 Matt Todd, 6 Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, 5 Sam Whitelock (c), 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody
Replacements: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Michael Alaalatoa, 19 Quinten Strange, 20 Jed Brown, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Mitchell Hunt, 23 Tim Bateman

British and Irish Lions: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 George North, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Ben Te’o, 11 Liam Williams, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Sean O’Brien, 6 Peter O’Mahony, 5 George Kruis, 4 Alun Wyn Jones (c), 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Jamie George, 1 Mako Vunipola
Replacements: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Dan Cole, 19 Maro Itoje, 20 CJ Stander, 21 Rhys Webb, 22 Johnny Sexton, 23 Anthony Watson

Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France)
Assistant Referees: Angus Gardner (Australia), Pascal Gauzère (France)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)

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