The British and Irish Lions have turned the second-half screws on the Maori All Blacks, emerging 32-10 victors in Rotorua.
Holding a slender 15-10 lead early in the second half, the Lions were handed a major shot in the arm through the controversial sin-binning of Maori halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow – who hit a slipping Leigh Halfpenny high with his shoulder.
Down a man, the Maori struggled to compete with the Lions’ set-piece and were 29-10 behind when Kerr-Barlow’s returned to the field 10 minutes later.
Despite the win, it was another unimposing performance from the Test selection, who are running out of time before next week’s first Test against the All Blacks.
They offered few surprises from beginning to end, sticking to the brawny “Warrenball” style that served them so well last week against the Crusaders – even allowing for an improved performance from Irish playmaker Johnny Sexton.
The unerring boot of Welsh fullback Halfpenny put away four penalty goals in the first half and another two in the second – yet, despite a huge territory and possession advantage, the Lions seldom created try-scoring chances.
When they did, such as through Jonathan Davies and Conor Murray, they often looked to grind out a penalty and turn to the metronomic Halfpenny.
Along with Halfpenny’s 18 points, a penalty try and pick-and-go effort from Englishman Maro Itoje were eventually enough for victory.
The Maori ran the ball with less abandon than expected and frequently sought out tactical kicks to the Lions’ defensive corners.
They were the only side to nab a first-half try, with Liam Messam capitalising on a 12th-minute George North error to grubber ahead for himself and score.
With a two-point deficit at the break, the Maoris’ chances of repeating the 2005 feat of downing the Lions looked good – until Kerr-Barlow’s sin-binning, and the concession of a three-try lead from which they couldn’t recover.