Lions roar back into contention with Crusaders win

Photo: Twitter/@lionsofficial .

Fears the British and Irish Lions will be Test pushovers in New Zealand have been squashed with a muscular 12-3 win over the Crusaders in Christchurch.

The tourists played with a mixture of power and precision in a try-less affair to eclipse a Crusaders side who are top of the Super Rugby ladder with a perfect 14-win record.

The home side's first loss of 2017 came against committed opponents who won a ferocious forward contest against numerous All Blacks, kicked with greater accuracy and defended robustly.

It was the perfect recipe in freezing, slippery conditions.

It was also the performance the Lions needed, advancing considerably on their scratchy tour-opening win over the Provincial Barbarians and Wednesday's loss to the Blues.

Two weeks out from the first Test, Warren Gatland's men played with the intensity they'll need against the All Blacks.

First five-eighth Owen Farrell slotted four penalties, including three in the first half.

The Lions led 9-3 at the break, with Farrell's opposite Richie Mo'unga having slotted his team's only points via a penalty.

The Crusaders botched early lineouts and ran foul of the scrum interpretations of French referee Mathieu Raynal.

It helped the tourists dominate possession and largely dictate the pace of a stop-start game.

The hosts twice turned down kickable penalty shots late in the first half to launch attacking lineouts, both of which were repelled.

They rarely threatened to breach a staunch Lions defence after the break, with the tourists going closest to scoring from several breakouts, only to be let down by handling mistakes.

Several Lions gave their Test selection hopes a boost, most notably Farrell and Irish halfback Connor Murray, whose towering box kicks created constant problems.

Farrell played more than half of the game in the midfield after Jonathan Davies was replaced by first five-eighth Jonathan Sexton.

There will be concern over the fitness of Welsh centre Davies and Scottish fullback Stuart Hogg, who both failed to return after first-half exits to undergo concussion testing.

Several Lions forwards stood tall, most notably English prop Mako Vunipola, English lock George Kruis and Irish flanker Peter O'Mahony.

The Lions face the Highlanders in Dunedin on Tuesday, followed by the Maori All Blacks in Rotorua next Saturday.

- NZ Newswire


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