4 Jun 2017

Lions receive official welcome at Waitangi

7:51 pm on 4 June 2017

Waitangi welcomed the British and Irish Lions today - with hundreds of Māori warriors lined up to challenge and greet the visitors.

Haka welcoming Lions at Waitangi

Waitangi turned on a beautiful day for the Lions' official welcome to New Zealand. Photo: RNZ / Lois Williams

And a large crowd turned out to watch the spectacle.

After days of torrential rain the Treaty Grounds were basking in sunshine for the Lions' official welcome to New Zealand.

As they walked up the Nias Track and the first navy blue suits appeared at the crest of the hill - a party of 12 Māori warriors wielding taiaha advanced on them with a fearsome challenge.

Lions coach Warren Gatland stooped to pick up the taki - and the Lions entourage - about 30 men wide - was led back for a second wero and on to the carved meeting house where a mass haka awaited.

Cameras of the world's media clicked and rolled, and the crowds cheered as Ngāpuhi and other iwi groups roared out a welcome - supported by some who came from Australia, just to take part.

Lions coach Warren Gatland during the wero.

Lions coach Warren Gatland accepts the wero. Photo: RNZ / Lois Williams

It was an impressive reception committee for the visitors - and according to some supporters - a lot more convincing than their 13 to 7 point win over a gallant Provincial Barbarians' team in Whangārei last night.

The Lions rose to the occasion in the whare rūnanga - roaring back with waiata of their own.

And possibly for the first time, the Treaty grounds echoed to the strains of the martial hymn Jerusalem - as the Lions prepare to do battle on Wednesday - with the Blues in Auckland.

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