Rowntree predicts ‘massive reaction’ from New Zealand

Joe Schmidt called it poking the bear after his Ireland team came home victorious from Chicago last November and supporters will remember just how ferocious and grizzly it turned out to be when the All Blacks went gunning for revenge a fortnight later in Dublin.
Rowntree predicts ‘massive reaction’ from New Zealand

The British & Irish Lions are bracing themselves for a similar response this Saturday at Eden Park following their narrow victory over the 14-man world champions in Wellington as the home side does little to conceal its hurt at losing on home soil for the first time since 2009.

“A reaction. A massive reaction,” was Lions scrum coach Graham Rowntree’s prediction of the All Blacks’ intentions after his side levelled the Test series with a 24-21 win.

“They don’t normally make so many mistakes, do they, and they’ll be hurting from that — as we were from last week. So we’re expecting a reaction at Eden Park. They don’t lose there very often, do they?

"That will be driving them on. But we’re driven on by our game and our standards and wanting to get this done. We kept ourselves alive with that performance. We’re still in it going into the third game. The decider.”

As a Kiwi, Lions head coach Warren Gatland knows only too well how an All Blacks defeat goes down in his homeland and the knock-on effect it has on the players and coaches charged with putting things right.

He did not have to wait too long for opposite number Steve Hansen to confirm his thoughts.

“The big thing about when you lose is that it’s painful, isn’t it?” Hansen said yesterday as the dust settled on momentous events at Westpac Stadium the previous night when the 26th-minute dismissal of his centre Sonny Bill Williams changed the complexion of the contest.

“It sharpens the mind, it sharpens the attitude, and you look at things probably a little deeper than you normally do. We try to learn when we win, but in this case we had a side that beat us because on the day they were a little better than us.

"We have to acknowledge that and then go ‘OK how can we be better than them?’ And we’ll do that through the week, do our best to stay 15-on-15 and then see if we can get some strategies going.”

Hansen refused to draw a parallel between Saturday’s defeat to the Lions and last November’s loss to Ireland, which ended a world-record 18 Test wins in a row but the “Blacklash” could well be just the same.

When the All Blacks went to the Aviva Stadium seeking vengeance, they did not waste time on subtlety, Aaron Smith and Malikai Fekitoa both sin-binned, the latter for an awful high tackle on Simon Zebo that many believed deserved a straight red card.

The All Blacks’ overwhelming use of blunt-force trauma was enough to halt a brave Irish performance, 21-9.

“The difference in Chicago is that it was an attitudinal problem. While we had a couple of the big boys out (locks Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock), and won 18 on the row, we got to Chicago, a big sigh of relief after getting the record, as you saw also with England (last March), and we may well have been starting to get comfortable.

“The Cubs had won the World Series the first time in however many years it was and we’d started to become tourists rather than a team on tour.

“[Saturday] was totally different. It wasn’t an attitudinal problem. I just think we were one short and we were playing a good side. What we have to learn from last night is how to play a little smarter in those situations.

"So that if happens again, primarily with a yellow card, how do we deal with it and how do we make sure we come out the right side? We’ll look at tape, from game one to two to three, and see where can we make improvements, tactically, and how can we hurt them from a space point of view. They will do the same thing.”

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