Lions v NZ Provincial Barbarians in 60 seconds

Lions v NZ Provincial Barbarians in 60 seconds
Jonathan Sexton on the attack today. Picture: Inpho/Billy Stickland

New Zealand Provincial Barbarians 7 British and Irish Lions 13

The British and Irish Lions have beaten the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians 13-7 in Whangarei.

THE MATCH IN 60 SECONDS, by Simon Lewis

Key moment: Anthony Watson's 52nd minute try tipped the balance for the Lions, edging the tourists in front of an equally scratch Barbarians side of semi-professionals who had matched their illustrious opponents to that point and had led Warren Gatland's side 7-3 at half-time.

Talking point: Johnny Sexton had been downbeat about his prospects of earning a Test starting spot and his performance echoed expectation on a bad night for the Irish fly-half. If Owen Farrell had started the tour as favourite to wear the Lions' 10 jersey before the tour, he now is firmly in the box seat before his expected first tour start next week, unless the Irishman or Wales's Dan Biggar pulls a surprise.

Key man: Former Leinster man Ben Te'o's performance rose above the mostly mediocre fare offered by this opening Lions XV as the Worcester and England man put his hand up for the inside centre role in the upcoming Test series with the All Blacks. Te'o has certainly raised the bar for his rivals, including Ireland's Robbie Henshaw.

Ref watch: Australia's Angus Gardner had a thankfully quiet game in what turned out to be a closely-fought contest.

Penalties conceded: B&I Lions 9 (+1 free kick) NZ Barbarians 11 (+1)

Injuries: Johnny Sexton was withdrawn soon after receiving treatment but there were no other immediate injury concerns for the Lions other than Jared Payne's withdrawal from the matchday squad on Friday with a calf injury.

Next up: The 2017 tour shifts up a gear from here on in, with the Lions heading back to Auckland to face the first of New Zealand's five Super Rugby teams, taking on the Blues at Eden Park this coming Wednesday night. The Blues tuned up with a 34-29 win over the Queensland Reds in Apia, Samoa on Friday night.

MATCH REPORT

Owen Farrell answered the misfiring British and Irish Lions' distress call to sink the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians 13-7, as Johnny Sexton endured a wretched night in Whangarei.

Ireland fly-half Sexton trudged off after just 48 minutes of the Lions' opening tour clash in New Zealand, removed in part due to a potential leg injury - but also after a miserable performance.

Self-employed maintenance engineer Sam Anderson-Heather's try put the Barbarians 7-3 ahead at the break, with Farrell forced to rescue the tourists in a wholly unconvincing victory.

Sexton boasts 66 caps for Ireland and three for the Lions, but was eclipsed by his opposite number, Bryn Gatland, the 22-year-old son of Lions boss Warren.

England star Farrell had hardly set foot on the sodden Toll Stadium turf when he launched the killer move, then supplied the scoring pass for Anthony Watson's decisive try.

Ross Moriarty tackled by Sam Anderson-Heather and Josh Goodhue of Barbarians. Picture: Inpho
Ross Moriarty tackled by Sam Anderson-Heather and Josh Goodhue of Barbarians. Picture: Inpho

Sexton had admitted in advance of this clash that he was already lagging behind Saracens talisman Farrell in the race for the Lions' number 10 Test shirt.

Ross Moriarty tackled by Sam Anderson-Heather and Josh Goodhue of Barbarians. Picture: Inpho
Ross Moriarty tackled by Sam Anderson-Heather and Josh Goodhue of Barbarians. Picture: Inpho

And against a scratch team of part-timers and youngsters, the vastly experienced Sexton ceded considerable ground in that individual battle with Farrell.

The Lions' gruelling schedule has been dissected ad nauseam in the build-up to their punishing 10-match tour. And playing their first match after just four days in the country took a clear toll on head coach Warren Gatland's men.

Tour captain Sam Warburton insisted jet-lag would be no excuse for the Lions on their first hit-out, so on this evidence Gatland's side have much work to do to build a side to challenge New Zealand.

The Lions move quickly onwards to face Blues in Auckland on Wednesday, and will know full well they must improve out of sight to cope with full-strength Super Rugby sides - let alone the back-to-back world champion All Blacks.

Taulupe Faletau, Kyle Sinckler and Ben Te'o were the only starting Lions to emerge with any credit from an insipid, limited performance.

The hosts showed slick, aggressive interplay at jarring odds with the sloppy, sluggish and error-strewn approach of the big-name tourists, who turned around in embarrassing arrears at half-time.

Barbarians captain Anderson-Heather squeezes in his rugby around his engineering day job, but wriggled home here for the game's sole first-half score.

Rory Best in the dressing room ahead of the game. Picture: Inpho/Dan Sheridan
Rory Best in the dressing room ahead of the game. Picture: Inpho/Dan Sheridan

The Baa-Baas boasted a 7-3 lead at the interval, Bryn Gatland converting Anderson-Heather's score, and Sexton posting a penalty as the Lions' paltry reply.

Jet-lag or not, this Lions XV lacked intensity, incision and accuracy in a hugely underwhelming opening to one of the storied franchise's toughest-ever assignments in New Zealand.

Scotland full-back Stuart Hogg butchered two near dead-cert tries by fluffing the scoring pass - first miscuing his effort to Anthony Watson, then failing to ship on at all with Tommy Seymour awaiting a walk-in.

Iain Henderson struggled as well, dishing out one cheap penalty in a lacklustre first 40 minutes.

And Sexton looked every inch a man who had only played three times for Leinster since January in a hugely ring-rusty opening salvo.

The Ireland playmaker had to let Greig Laidlaw slot a second-half penalty after receiving treatment, and was left limping lightly.

His awful night was cut short soon afterwards, with Warren Gatland sounding the clarion call for Farrell.

The England fly-half offered an immediate uplift, first setting Ross Moriarty loose - then providing the scoring pass for Watson.

Farrell then converted what ought to have proved the breakthrough score - but still the Lions continued to struggle.

The teak-tough Saracen even blasted a penalty against the left post after the hour, with only six points still separating the sides.

The Lions even had to defend a driven lineout in the final minute, where a converted try would have handed the Barbarians the victory.

The replacement front row of Jamie George, Mako Vunipola and Tadhg Furlong squeezed the hosts into submission, however.

The Lions held on, but this was a match where they ought to have powered home - not inched across the line.

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