Lions suffer narrow defeat to Highlanders on New Zealand tour


Lions suffer narrow defeat to Highlanders on New Zealand tour

"Unfortunately, some big moments we didn't nail allowed them back into the game", coach Warren Gatland said after his team led 22-13 mid-way through the second half.

The loss at Otago Regional Stadium, however, was a bigger blow for the tourists after they had impressed with a 12-3 win over the Canterbury Crusaders last Saturday and looked to have begun to get some momentum into their tour.

The Lions' next tour match is against the Maori All Blacks in Rotorua on Saturday, with the first Test in Auckland a week later. The Highlanders were building pressure though, with the overlooked All Blacks centre Malakai Fekitoa and his worldwide teammate Waisake Naholo beginning to make a serious impression on the Lions, and it soon told.

The Highlanders were playing the game at a relentless pace and Waisake Naholo showed tremendous power to score the game's first try, bursting through the challenges of Jared Payne and Courtney Lawes to touch down.

The Scot's tour is now over, and he'll head back home for treatment on the injury.

That scoreline remained at halftime, before the Lions scored again just after the break to make it 15-10.

The Lions' response was swift and, after good work by Biggar in the build-up, Jonathan Joseph exploited a route to the in-goal area.

With both sides proving rather equal, the players headed for the tunnel with the scores level, but this time it would be the Lions that exploded out of the blocks first after the restart. The Highlanders would go on to punish the Kiwi coach, as after they folded the Lions scrum in half for the second time in the space of three days to win a penalty, Banks split the uprights to put the Highlanders ahead with six minutes left on the clock.

Banks stepped up and slotted it to give the side a one-point buffer.

"I'm sure for the neutral, for the Highlanders fans, it was a great game to watch but for us, there's a lot of learning to do".

Warburton then gave the tourists a third try after a dominant Lions scrum, only for Highlander Liam Coltman to retaliate from a lineout drive.

Rhys Webb was forced off the field for the final quarter with an injury and the Highlanders came on strong as the game went down to the wire.

The Lions finally found their attacking mojo, scoring three tries to two - more than doubling their try tally so far - but lost from a winning position through a late penalty. Crucially though, Gardner checked where the mark was, marched Daly back two metres, and his long-range effort fell short. Ulster's Iain Henderson made ground to help captain Sam Warburton to score and when Biggar converted, the Lions were nine clear at 22-13.