British and Irish Lions Test hopefuls blow it against Hurricanes
The British and Irish Lions squandered a 16-point lead as the Wellington Hurricanes roared back to snatch a 31-31 draw and dent the Test prospects of several touring players on Tuesday.
The Lions leaked four second-half tries and then missed a drop-goal attempt after the siren as they threw away a commanding position against the Super Rugby champions.
It wasn't the result the Lions wanted in their final tour match as coach Warren Gatland looks for reinforcements for this week's second Test after Saturday's defeat to the All Blacks.
There were some bright spots, with Tommy Seymour scoring two tries on the right wing and George North one on the left, although Gatland's Test focus will be on the forwards.
Lock Courtney Lawes excelled, along with hard-running number eight CJ Stander.
Iain Henderson also played well but marred his Test hopes when he was sin-binned for a dangerous tackle, allowing the Hurricanes back into the game in a thrilling finale.
"It's very frustrating to have given up a lead twice," said Lions captain Rory Best, adding: "It'll be the last game (of the tour) for a lot of us.
"But we'll make sure that we knuckle down, roll up the sleeves and whoever's lucky enough to play in the last two games we'll make they're well prepared and ready to win the game on Saturday."
- Niggle factor -
In what may be a taste of things to come in the second Test, it was an often bad-tempered encounter featuring plenty of off-the-ball niggle.
The match in front of a 39,000 sell-out crowd in the New Zealand capital started brightly, with both sides throwing the ball around.
A Dan Biggar penalty put the Lions ahead but the Hurricanes looked threatening on the wing as Julian Savea went on the charge.
Just as they were building pressure and looked poised to score, Lions scrum-half Greg Laidlaw intercepted an Otere Black pass and pinned his ears back.
He was run down just over the halfway line but offloaded to fellow Scot Seymour, who dotted down between the posts, with Biggar adding the conversion and another penalty.
Flanker Callum Gibbins hit back with a pick-and-go try as the Hurricanes outmuscled the Lions defence, but the visitors kept the scoreboard ticking over with another Biggar penalty.
North then scored their second try when the Hurricanes failed to claim a Biggar high ball and Henderson flicked it into the path of the giant Welsh winger.
The Hurricanes pressured the Lions with a lineout drive as half-time approached, but this time the defence held to send them into the break up 23-7.
A perfectly timed Savea pass set up fellow All Black Ngani Laumape for a try seconds after the restart and a Jordie Barrett penalty narrowed the gap to 23-17.
The Lions patiently worked the ball forward after Wellington scrum-half Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi was sinbinned for a high tackle, then sent it out wide for Seymour to score his second.
But the Hurricanes replied with tries to Wes Goosen and Vaea Fifita after Henderson's yellow card, locking up the scores at 31-all and setting up a barnstorming final 10 minutes.
The Hurricanes worked the ball through 23 phases but could not find a way through, and then Biggar's attempted drop goal fell short to end the match in a draw.
© 2017 AFP