14 Jun 2017

Another loss, another lesson for Lions

9:24 am on 14 June 2017

Another loss, another lesson for the Lions on their tour of New Zealand, coach Warren Gatland said, after they squandered a nine-point lead to lose 23-22 to the Highlanders.

James Haskell of the Lions acknowledges the crowd following their loss to the Highlanders.

James Haskell of the Lions acknowledges the crowd following their loss to the Highlanders. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

It was the second loss of their 10-match tour of New Zealand after they were also overhauled by the Auckland Blues in their 22-16 loss at Eden Park last Wednesday.

Last night's defeat at Otago Regional Stadium, however, was a bigger blow for the tourists, who had 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 guys are disappointed," Gatland told reporters in Dunedin. "We shot ourselves in the foot with some turnovers and penalties in the last 10 minutes.

"There are some key moments to learn from, the big lesson is that New Zealand sides play for 80 minutes."

Waisake Naholo scores a try during the Highlanders clash with the Lions.

Waisake Naholo scores a try during the Highlanders clash with the Lions. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Marty Banks won the game for the home side when he slotted a 74th minute penalty, though two powerful scrums from their replacement front rowers had given them the field position for the flyhalf to seal the opportunity.

The Lions had earlier failed to put the game away with the ultra-consistent Owen Farrell missing a penalty that would have given them a 25-20 lead with 12 minutes remaining.

Gatland said his side should have taken control of the match before then anyway.

"At 22-13 we have got ourselves in front and the boys said they were reasonably comfortable and unfortunately some big moments that we didn't nail allowed them back into the game," Gatland added.

"We just needed strong game management to close the game down, then we missed a penalty that Owen would normally kick every day and Marty Banks made his.

"Those are the fine margins."

Lions captain Sam Warburton said he was disappointed his side had given away too many penalties, with referee Angus Gardner warning the Welshman that they could face a yellow card if they continued to transgress.

The loss had also upset their momentum as they head into the clash with the Maori All Blacks in Rotorua on Saturday.

"There were high pressure situations in the game that we probably could have dealt with a bit better," Warburton said.

"Any team will tell you the morning after a win is a much better buzz.

"But the group of guys we have got are hugely motivated for what's around the corner. As long as we learn from this game, we take it on the chin and look forward to the Maori which is a huge challenge."

- Reuters

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