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'I'm not worried about his goal-kicking at all' - Hansen backing Barrett

Steve Hansen was gracious in defeat in Wellington on Saturday night.

Murray Kinsella reports from Wellington

STEVE HANSEN COULD have gone down the route of openly criticising refereeing decisions and bemoaning the red card for Sonny Bill Williams in the first half, but the All Blacks head coach instead went for the gracious response to defeat.

His reaction very much reflected that of his players, led by impressive captain Kieran Read, who was quick to congratulate the Lions at the final whistle in Wellington.

Steve Hansen Hansen refused to criticise referee Jerome Garces. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

When he settled in for his post-match press conference, Hansen was asked about his view of the Williams red for hammering a shoulder into Anthony Watson’s head in the first half.

“The red card was a red card – if the ref says it’s a red card, you don’t have any say in it,” answered Hansen. “It was one of those ones that could have been a yellow or a red, but he chose it to be a red, so you just have to live with it.

“There’s no point whining about it, Sonny didn’t use his arms so he put himself at risk, and unfortunately he collected young Anthony’s head and put him at risk. You don’t want that and the referee deemed it a red card, so off you go boy.

“I don’t want to make any comment about Jerome Garces, it’s just media stuff and we’re not going into that.

“What we should be getting excited about is that it’s 1-1 and the Lions tonight played well and won the game and we’re going to Auckland to try and win it and they’re going to Auckland to try and win it.”

Hansen’s apparent excitement was shared by his playing squad and though they would obviously rather have wrapped up the series at Westpac Stadium, there was respect for the Lions’ gritty win.

Back row Jerome Kaino paid a heavier price than the rest of his team-mates for Williams’ red card, being replaced by debutant Ngani Laumape as Hansen looked to retain a full backline, and watching on from the sidelines he saw a big improvement in the tourists.

Tadhg Furlong with Jerome Kaino Kaino was hauled off early. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“I thought they brought a lot of edge and physicality in their defence,” said Kaino. “Their kicking game was good, but I take my hat off to our boys.

“We had our chances and we could have taken that game, but also the Lions played well and you saw the two tries that they scored – it was through some great attacking play.

“We didn’t start that well, I thought the Lions really brought that physicality in the first half and also the composure in the last five minutes, we could have kept our heads a bit more. But I have to give credit where credit’s due and the Lions played well.

“I think they learned from their frailties last week and I thought they definitely brought some edge to their physicality tonight. It’s game on and it’s exciting heading into next week.”

Another issue in the All Blacks’ defeat were three missed kicks at goal from out-half Beauden Barrett, including one from almost directly in front of the posts in the second half.

Those nine missed points proved to be costly, but Hansen played down Barrett’s off night from the tee.

“I’m not worried about his goal-kicking at all,” said Hansen. ”Games are won and lost with goal-kicking, but they are also won by players doing a job from one to 23 and tonight the Lions did their job better than we did.

“He kicked 100% last time out [in the first Test], so no, I’m not concerned.”

Sean O'Brien with Beauden Barrett Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

And despite a few more potentially controversial questions coming in before the end of the press conference, Hansen refused to bite.

Publicly at least, he’s not going to incite the Lions any further and he’s keen for the rugby to do the talking in the final week of this fascinating Test series.

“Losing sucks, and that’s whether you’ve got 15, 25 or two players, it sucks,” said Hansen. “It was our turn to take it on the chin.

“It’s all very well being good and gracious winners, but we’ve got to do the same when we’re beaten. So we’ve got to prepare better, work harder and come out to try to win the series next week.”

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Murray Kinsella

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