Lions and All Blacks coaches find consensus after 1st test
AUCKLAND, New Zealand (AP) After an occasionally fractious relationship, the coaches of the All Blacks and British and Irish Lions found consensus in the wake of New Zealand’s 30-15 win in the first rugby test at Eden Park on Saturday.
They had sparred frequently in the lead-up to the match but All Blacks coach Steve Hansen and Lions coach Warren Gatland found themselves largely in agreement over the key areas and moments which contributed to the win that gave New Zealand a 1-0 lead in the three-test series.
Hansen praised the performance of his tight five which gave the All Blacks superiority at set pieces – including the scrum that produced their decisive try. Hesang the virtues of his captain Kieran Read who returned from an almost two-month injury layoff to lead the All Blacks in ball-carrying and in the loose.
Gatland agreed those were areas in which the All Blacks found themselves with a measurable advantage, just as he agreed with Hansen that New Zealand had attacked frequently from scrumhalf to negate the Lions’ damaging rush defense.
But the coaches also found common ground on the larger question of whether New Zealand’s commanding win at Eden Park signaled that their overall victory in the three-test series is assured. Both had no doubt that while the All Blacks now hold a vital advantage a week out from the second test at Wellington, the series is far from over.
They said independently and without consultation that the way in which both teams recover from Saturday’s physical test at Eden Park and prepare for the second will play a large role in determining whether the series is still alive when the teams return to Eden Park in a fortnight.
The All Blacks already have more injury concerns than the Lions. Fullback Ben Smith failed a concussion test and center Ryan Crotty suffered a hamstring strain which puts both in doubt for the second test while the Lions are largely unscathed.
”The All Blacks played well up front, they did a good job of stopping our line speed by coming very hard out of scrumhalf which gave them some good front foot ball and they were very aggressive at the breakdown,” Gatland said. ”We need to learn from that and make sure we’re better in that area next week.
”We’re just going to have to make sure that if they employ those tactics next week we’re much more effective at negating the momentum they created.
”We created some great chances, played some lovely rugby and scored some nice tries which was very positive. It was just disappointing that there were a couple of golden moments where we could have scored and didn’t.
”The All Blacks haven’t played champagne rugby and thrown the ball around all over the place but, to be fair to them, they were very direct and so we need to make sure we get better in those areas.”
Hansen said the All Blacks ”executed our plan very well. It wasn’t perfect but it was only our second test of the year so we’ll build on that.
”I thought our tight five were very, very good. Since Adam was a cowboy if your tight five do their job then everyone else can play. Tonight’s test was always going to be won in the tight five and I thought we won that battle but it doesn’t guarantee who will win it next week.
”You don’t become the No. 1 side in the world for as long as we have been if you don’t have a very good tight five. We’re not just a team that can play flashy rugby. We can play down and dirty but in a good way.”