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Warren Gatland was impressed with the 'outstanding' Sean O'Brien

Peter O’Mahony also made a big impression in the back row.

Murray Kinsella reports from Christchurch

THERE WAS A moment in the first half when the Crusaders finally got a good grip on the scrum, powering right through the Lions.

The tourists’ front row ended up on their backs with the Kiwi side’s front row in their faces, and the Crusaders couldn’t resist the chance to rub it in. Codie Taylor led the way, shoving Jamie George and Tadhg Furlong and shouting at them.

British and Irish Lions Sean O’Brien and Peter O’Mahony Sean O'Brien and Peter O'Mahony were excellent in Christchurch. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

That didn’t go down too well with the Lions and it wasn’t much of a surprise to see who was in the thick of the ensuing shoving and squaring-up.

Peter O’Mahony and Sean O’Brien aren’t know for taking backwards steps and their combative response was typical of their performances on a good evening for the Lions.

The Irish back row duo combined superbly with number eight Taulupe Faletau, with O’Brien getting through 56 minutes as he made his first appearance since the start of April.

“I thought Sean was outstanding – even from an experience and leadership point of view,” said Lions boss Warren Gatland post-match in Christchurch.

“His voice in the changing rooms and directing players and chat. He probably lasted a bit longer than we thought he would, and we needed to make some changes.

“Peter O’Mahony went across to the openside and we had spoken to him about that, potentially being able to cover that. He was able to do that.

“I thought Peter, he stole the lineout at the front and we put their lineout under some pressure, I think they lost the first three lineouts.”

O’Mahony is a strong contender for the Test side in the six shirt, particularly with Gatland having cited those lineout strengths on a number of occasions already. Denying the All Blacks lineout possession will be important for the series and there are few better jumpers than the Munster man.

Maro Itoje and Peter O'Mahony celebrate winning O'Mahony with Maro Itoje after the win. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

O’Mahony’s “mongrel” edge is something Gatland likes too, while the 27-year-old also showed his skillset when hanging in wide channels as part of the Lions’ attacking phase play shape.

Meanwhile, O’Brien made a big statement while Lions captain Sam Warburton was sidelined with an ankle issue.

Gatland stated that the Welsh openside is likely to return to action against the Highlanders on Tuesday, but he certainly has strong competition from O’Brien and Justin Tipuric.

“With Sam, a lot has been made, we will probably give him a run on Tuesday as he needs some game time,” said Gatland.

Gatland highlighted the excellent footwork of Faletau at number eight against the Crusaders, while also saying that CJ Stander “gave us some energy” off the bench in the second half.

All in all, the back row is unsurprisingly looking extremely competitive two weeks out from the Test series.

“It was a good performance and there was a lot of competition and players are well aware of that,” said Gatland after the win over the Crusaders. “We laid a marker down tonight and there is a challenge for the team that takes the field on Tuesday.

“We’ve known about the quality of the players we’ve got and I just keep repeating myself that with more time together we’ll be better.”

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Murray Kinsella

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