Johnny Sexton admits size of claiming Lions shirt ahead of Owen Farrell


The Lions took 51 minutes to score their only try through winger Anthony Watson and were outplayed in most areas by a Barbarians side drawn from New Zealand's minor provinces, which had only days to prepare for the match. "But we are happy to win". No one is going to say - oh he did really well four years ago so we will put him in.

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

And the Leinsterman - who masterminded Ireland's famous win over the All Blacks previous year in Chicago - will not have to look far for tips on his opposite man Bryn Gatland.

It was hard to tell which side was made up of Test stars and regulars at times, as the Barbarians secured the most possession and territory - despite spending just a week together in camp before the Whangarei match.

The Lions' tour began with a scratchy win over the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians.

"He was outstanding, he made a lot of half breaks, full breaks and things like that".

He pinched a try assist with a looping bomb inside the Lions' 22, eventually culminating in Sam Anderson-Heather's opener, before converting with aplomb.

A Laidlaw penalty goal put them within one point, before substitute fly-half Owen Farrell - on for a subdued Sexton - put Watson over on the right edge.

Johnny Sexton trudged off with his team trailing half-time having just thrown a pass to no one
Johnny Sexton trudged off with his team trailing half-time having just thrown a pass to no one

But while there are legitimate excuses for their stuttering showing at the Toll Stadium - where Anthony Watson scored the Lions' sole try - it won't be giving the All Blacks sleepless nights ahead of the opening Test match in three weeks.

His views are echoed by fellow NZ Herald journalist Patrick McKendry: "This, unfortunately for the British and Irish Lions, was a damp squib of a performance in the opening match of their highly anticipated tour".

"I'm quite sure we'll reflect on the game and we'll see the Lions missed out on a number of opportunities, but I'm just incredibly proud of the scramble defence".

In 2015 they claimed an impressive win over the Maori All Blacks but the 2017 generation are the first incarnation of the Provincial Barbarians and are coached by Bay of Plenty's Clayton McMillan.

From the outset, the Barbarians showed their intentions, a short kick off regathered and the Lions were immediately under pressure as the Barbarians attacked at every opportunity, Bryn Gatland prominent with his kicking game and directing his side around the park as the Lions struggled with cohesion and the early pace.

Yet the Bath-based Faletau, who played one Test for the Lions in 2013, said he didn't feel any extra pressure to step up in his cousin's absence.

The Guardian said it was an "undistinguished" victory by a team of professionals against "a bunch of part-timers whose ranks included a sheep farmer, a shopkeeper, a nurse and a fruit-picker".

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