28 Jun 2017

Public pressure keeps Lions on bench

4:32 pm on 28 June 2017

Lions coach Warren Gatland admits he bowed to public pressure in not calling up extra players from his bench against the Hurricanes last night.

British and Lions coach Warren Gatland looks on during the match against the Auckland Blues.

Warren Gatland. Photo: AFP

The scrappy game burst to life in the second spell as the Hurricanes clawed their way back from a 16-point half-time deficit. The homeside dominated the closing stages forcing a 31-all draw.

Gatland was widely criticised for tarnishing the Lions brand two weeks ago when he called in six additional players - four from Wales and two from Scotland - effectively to shield Test players from having to play midweek.

But he refused to use any of the six off the bench last night, introducing just Leigh Halfpenny and George Kruis - both original tour selections.

Lions tiring against the Hurricanes

Lions tiring against the Hurricanes Photo: Photosport

Gatland admits it was a deliberate move not to play the newcomers.

"So much was made about devaluing the jersey that we made the decision we would just try and get through the game with as many of the 15 as we could," he said.

"I can understand people's views."

The Lions managed one win from their four midweek matches, with losses to the Blues and Highlanders also notable for sluggish finishes.

A yellow card shown to Irish lock Iain Henderson in the 65th minute proved a critical moment in last night's game as the Hurricanes ran in tries to reserve back Wes Goosen and flanker Vaea Fifita to level the scores.

"It's very frustrating, they are the Super Rugby champions and a very good side," said Lions captain Rory Best.

"We'll look back at mistakes that let them back into it. But to build two leads the way we did at this stage in the tour, we've got to look at a few positives as well.

"You cannot fault the effort but we needed to be maybe a little more clinical at times."

Hurricanes captain Brad Shields said he was also frustrated by the result.

"But look, a massive game and an awesome occasion and I think the boys loved every minute of it. And the fight out there to come back in that second half was unreal and just great to be a part of."