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Dublin: 15 °C Thursday 27 June, 2019
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Good morning and welcome along to our live coverage of the second game of the 2017 Lions tour as Warren Gatland’s side face Super Rugby opposition for the first time in the form of the Auckland Blues.

After an underwhelming start against the Provincial Barbarians on Saturday, the Lions will be desperate to send out a statement of intent at Eden Park as preparations for the first Test intensify.

With an exciting Blues XV lining-up opposite the tourists, this one has all the ingredients to be a hugely entertaining contest and certainly there is an air of anticipation as kick-off approaches.

We get underway at 8.35am and we’ll bring you every kick of the ball right here.

The Lions are in the house.

Jared Payne arrives Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Sean O'Brien arrives Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

A view of jersey's in the changing room Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

A Lions fan ahead of the game Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Let’s take a check on the teams ahead of this one, with eight Irish players included in Gatland’s matchday squad including first Lions appearances for CJ Stander, Robbie Henshaw, Jack McGrath and Jared Payne.

The established combination of Ospreys pair Rhys Webb and Dan Biggar in the halfbacks should allow the Lions to operate with solidity, while wings Elliot Daly and Jack Nowell are likely to roam, with fullback Leigh Halfpenny offering support.

Robbie Henshaw during the Captains Run Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Up front, Welshman Ken Owens comes into the team as captain in a front row that also includes Ireland’s McGrath and England’s Dan Cole, while Maro Itoje is partnered by the hard-hitting Courtney Lawes in the second row.

There will be excitement to see how CJ Stander powers forward from number eight, while Justin Tipuric and James Haskell are a dynamic set of flankers.

Rory Best, Johnny Sexton and Peter O’Mahony will be keen for game time off the bench.

Lions:

15. Leigh Halfpenny
14. Jack Nowell
13. Jared Payne
12. Robbie Henshaw
11. Elliot Daly
10. Dan Biggar
9. Rhys Webb

1. Jack McGrath
2. Ken Owens (captain)
3. Dan Cole
4. Maro Itoje
5. Courtney Lawes
6. James Haskell
7. Justin Tipuric
8. CJ Stander

Replacements:

16. Rory Best
17. Joe Marler
18. Kyle Sinckler
19. Iain Henderson
20. Peter O’Mahony
21. Greig Laidlaw
22. Johnny Sexton
23. Liam Williams

Ryan Bailey here to guide you through all the action as it happens while Murray Kinsella is at Eden Park, where the heavens have just opened ahead of kick off.

If you want to join the conversation, tweet us: @The42_ie, e-mail ryan@the42.ie or post your thoughts in the comments section below.

As mentioned, the Blues XV is littered with All Black quality and certainly this is going to be a stiff test of the Lions’ credentials in just their second outing of the tour.

Tana Umaga has named the likes of Sonny Bill Williams, Rieko Ioane, George Moala and Charlie Faumuina in an explosive looking side.

Blues:

15. Michael Collins
14. Matt Duffie
13. George Moala
12. Sonny Bill Williams
11. Rieko Ioane
10. Stephen Perofeta
9. Agustine Pulu

1. Ofa Tu’ungafasi
2. James Parsons (captain)
3. Charlie Faumuina
4. Gerard Cowley-Tuioti
5. Scott Scrafton
6. Akira Ioane
7. Blake Gibson
8. Steven Luatua

Replacements:

16. Hame Faiva
17. Alex Hodgman
18. Sione Mafileo
19. Jimmy Tupou
20. Kara Pryor
21. Sam Nock
22. Ihaia West
23. TJ Faiane

Warren Gatland has been speaking to Sky Sports ahead of kick off:

Warren Gatland Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“The team tonight has had a bit more cohesion over the last few days. There is short turnaround, and they know there is a big challenge ahead against a Super Rugby side who have been together for the last seven months, but the guys have trained well.

“We said that we wanted to give everyone a start over the first three games, and sometimes you look for a couple of combinations to make that a little bit easier in terms of players gelling together.”

In making his debut tonight, Jared Payne becomes only the fourth player to play for, and against, the Lions having lined up against Warren Gatland’s side for the Barbarians four years ago.

Elliot Daly, who starts on the wing at Eden Park, also joins the club which includes Riki Flutely and Tom Reid.

There’s a big crowd inside Eden Park and they give the teams a huge ovation as they emerge from the dressing room. Before we get underway, we’re going to have a minute’s silence to remember the victims of the London and Manchester attacks.

For the first time in their history, the Blues perform a pre-match haka, He Toa Takitini (The Strength of Many). We’re just about set now, strap yourselves in!

2Mins

Much better start for the Lions here as they control possession and have now gone through 10 phases of attacking play as they inch towards the Blues line. Good attacking intent in the opening exchanges from Gatland’s side.

2Mins

That was the start the Lions would have wanted but the Blues stand firm and Sonny Bill Williams forces the turnover as James Haskell is penalised for holding on.

3Mins

The Blues nearly shoot themselves in the foot as the Lions are up quickly and the ball breaks loose for Payne, who stabs it on but is just unable to make up the ground to get it down before it goes dead. Breathless start.

6Mins

Sonny Bill Williams has been everywhere so far, forcing two early turnovers including that superb strip in contact after CJ Stander looked to carry hard.

The All Blacks coach Steve Hansen is here and will have been impressed with what he’s seen so far.

Flag 7Mins

TRY! Blues 5-0 Lions (Rieko Ioane)

The Lions are stretched and Stephen Perofeta’s beautiful pass catches Haskell and Nowell out as Ioana shows his electric pace to run it into the corner. Perofeta misses the conversion but that’s some start from the Blues.

11Mins

Try or no try? Great response from the Lions as they work the ball out wide and Payne, at full stretch, dives over in the corner. We’re going upstairs but it looked like the Irish international was in touch.

12Mins

No try! It was a tight call but Payne’s left knee adjudged to be in touch as Perofeta made the tackle.

14Mins

The Blues make a mess of the line out and very nearly let the Lions in but the referee pulls Biggar back for enroaching and the chance is gone.

The two full backs exchange kicks before Collins finds a brilliant touch on the far side, with the pressure now on Ken Owens to find his man inside the Lions 22.

15Mins

Huge carry from Haskell in midfield as he storms through, and there’s support from Itoje on his shoulder. The Lions are on the front foot here and recycle possession before winning the penalty.

Biggar turns down the shot at goal and kicks for the corner, a decision which is welcomed inside the ground. That’s a big statement of intent from the tourists.

16Mins

The Blues perform a haka before the game Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Rieko Ioane scores their first try despite CJ Stander Source: Photosport/Andrew Cornaga/INPHO

The Lion's team ahead of the game Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Flag 17Mins

TRY! Blues 5-7 Lions (CJ Stander)

The Lions kick for the corner again and the maul rumbles on towards the line, with CJ Stander eventually crashing over after the tourists showed good patience. Halfpenny adds the extras.

19Mins

Huge! Lawes absolutely floors Stephen Perofeta with a big hit in midfield and the young out-half knocks on in contact. Lions scrum just inside their own half.

23Mins

Webb has been outstanding in the opening 21 minutes, heavily involved in everything the Lions have done, and he identifies the space in behind and his beautifully judged kick puts the Blues on the back foot.

Elliot Daly chases well and Collins skews his kick into touch under pressure from the Lions winger. A good attacking platform for the tourists.

Flag 24Mins

Penalty! Blues 5-10 Lions (Halfpenny)

And the pressure pays off as the scrum goes down and the Lions win a penalty in front of the posts. Halfpenny makes no mistake to stretch the lead.

27Mins

The Lions penalised at the line out on this occasion as Lawes takes Gerard Cowley-Tuioti out in the air and the end result is an attacking line out for the Blues deep inside Lions territory — but the hosts knock it on.

30Mins

The Lions enjoying dominance at the set piece so far and they win another scrum penalty, this time five yards from their own line to relieve the pressure as Biggar clears the lines.

The Blues’ All Black front row struggling against McGrath, Owens and Cole.

30Mins

Leigh Halfpenny kicks a penalty Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

CJ Stander scores his sides first try Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Maro Itoje Source: Photosport/Andrew Cornaga/INPHO

30Mins

Payne is offside and the Blues have the chance to pin the Lions back inside their own half but it’s all a bit scrappy at the moment. This has been a much improved performance from the Lions so far.

35Mins

Try or no try? The Blues had been struggling to break down the Lions but out of nowhere, Rieko Ioane pounces on the loose ball to run it in from halfway after Biggar lost possession. We’re going upstairs to have a look but it appeared Ofa Tu’ungufasi was offside when he hit the Lions out-half.

36Mins

No try! Rieko Ioane is denied a second try of the evening, while Johnny Sexton is on for Dan Biggar who has gone off for a HIA after that big hit.

39Mins

The heavens have just opened in Auckland and it’s now bucketing down at Eden Park.

Sexton tests the handling of Collins with an up-and-under but the Blues full back does brilliantly to gather cleanly under pressure and call for the mark. Heading into the final minute of the half now.

41Mins

The Blues looking to strike late in this half and they put the Lions under serious pressure with 11 phases of sustained possession.

Stander comes off the line quickly but goes in high and the hosts are going to kick at goal here.

43Mins

Missed! Perofeta’s effort strikes the posts and causes all sorts of chaos as the Lions look to scramble back. Sonny Bill Williams is convinced he’s won the foot race to get it down and we’re going back up to the TMO.

Flag 44Mins

TRY! Blues 12-10 Lions (Sonny Bill Williams)

The TMO takes his time but eventually decides that Nowell knocks the ball back after it came off the post and Sonny Bill Williams puts the Blues back in front with the last play of the half.

Flag 45Mins

Half time! Blues 12-10 Lions

And that’s it for a hugely entertaining first period. The Lions can consider themselves unlucky not to be ahead at the break with Gatland’s side putting in a much improved performance but their discipline has been poor and they’ve paid the price.

46Mins

Dan Bigger and Dan Cole with Akira Ioane Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

A view of the Lions team during the Blues Haka Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Sonny Bill Williams tackled by Maro Itoje Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Flag 41Mins

We’re back underway! The Lions edged possession and territory in that first half but they trail by two points heading into the second period. No sign of Biggar at the restart so Sexton continues at 10.

44Mins

The Lions don’t roll away and are again penalised — that’s now nine penalties against the tourists — and the Blues kick to touch. They work it wide and stretch the Lions defence, with Ioane once again dotting down in the corner, although we’re going upstairs to have a look.

44Mins

No try! Very similar to Jared Payne’s first-half effort, with Ioane just in touch before he got it down under pressure from Nowell.

47Mins

That was a crucial intervention from Nowell but the Lions are still under serious pressure as the Blues mount another attack after Webb’s clearing kick.

The greasy conditions has made handling tricky and there have been a few unforced errors since the break, with the Lions given a reprieve and a chance to clear their lines.

49Mins

That was a clever kick from Robbie Henshaw, who we really haven’t seen much of so far, to turn the Blues and ask questions of their defence.

Meanwhile, there’s bad news for Jared Payne as he limps off with what appears to be a relapse of that calf injury and Liam Williams is on for his Lions debut. Elliot Daly in switching into the centre alongside Henshaw.

50Mins

More scintillating play from the Blues as James Parsons turns on the after burners and embarks on an explosive run through midfield as the hosts turn defence into attack. The Lions are left scrambling and there is real danger here but Matt Duffie lets them off the hook as he knocks on.

51Mins

Bad couple of minutes for Jack Nowell as he’s exposed defensively again and then knocks it on after the Lions went down the blindside.

52Mins

Sonny Bill Williams celebrates scoring their second try Source: Photosport/Andrew Cornaga/INPHO

Ken Owens dejected Source: Photosport/Andrew Cornaga/INPHO

Robbie Henshaw Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

53Mins

Penalty! Blues 15-10 Lions (Ihaia West)

The Blues have enjoyed 80% possession in the second half and they stretch their lead further through West, who has just replaced Perofeta.

54Mins

Changes! Gatland looks to his bench and Peter O’Mahony is on for his Lions debut, replacing James Haskell while Joe Marler and Kyle Sinckler are on for Jack McGrath and Dan Cole.

55Mins

A very costly penalty reversal there as Liam Williams takes his man out in the air after a Sexton up-and-under. The Blues now have the chance to clear as we approach the 55 minute mark.

59Mins

Itoje gets the Lions on the front foot after picking a good line and Henshaw grubbers through to put the Blues under pressure from the line out once again.

60Mins

Yellow! This time Liam Williams is heading to the bin as he hits his man in the air again. The Lions down to 14 and face an uphill task from here.

63Mins

The Blues really have their tails up now and the Lions are really up against it as Gatland looks on with a worried look on his face. Less than 20 minutes remaining at Eden Park and the Lions trail by five.

64Mins

The Lions weathered that storm well and have come out the other side to mount an attack of their own. Daly has been bright throughout and makes a nice break to get his side going forward before the Lions win a penalty in front of the sticks.

66Mins

Penalty! Blues 15-13 Lions (Halfpenny)

Halfpenny strikes it cleanly and it sails between the posts, as the Lions move back within two points. Less than a minute left on Williams’ sin binning.

69Mins

Another powerful maul from the Lions, who march on and earn the penalty with Daly launching it towards the Blues’ 10 metre line — but the throw is crooked from Owens and that’s his last involvement as Best comes on in his place.

70Mins

Jared Payne receives treatment after leaving the field with an injury Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Maro Itoje wins a lineout Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

inpho_01218723 Source: Photosport/Andrew Cornaga/INPHO

71Mins

Penalty! Blues 15-16 Lions (Halfpenny)

Huge scrum from the Lions and Joe Marler is central to that as the tourists win the penalty, with Halfpenny calling for the tee. It’s a good distance out but the Welsh internationals hails it and the flags go up. The Lions lead with eight minutes to go!

73Mins

Itoje is pumped! Superb defensive effort there as the Lions halt the Blues maul and win the scrum on halfway. A lot of back slapping going on there and rightly so, that was a big moment.

Flag 75Mins

TRY! Blues 22-16 Lions (Ihaia West)

Oh. My. Word! Sonny Bill Williams breaks through after picking a magnificent line and his offload to the supporting West is sensational. The replacement out-half still has so much to do but my word does he do it as he puts Sexton and Halfpenny on their backsides with a scarcely believable finish.

77Mins

Here come the Lions, as they attempt to pick and drive their way to the line. They look to keep it tight and inch towards that whitewash but they concede the penalty and a huge roar goes up around Eden Park.

The set piece apart, the Lions have been second best and have really failed to come up with anything different when in possession.

79Mins

The Blues are within touching distance of a famous, famous victory and have done well to run down the clock — but they concede the penalty! Sexton kicks for the corner and big pressure on Best to find his man.

But the Ireland captain misses his target and that should be that! Disaster for the Lions.

Full time! Blues 22-16 Lions 

A hugely disappointing and damaging defeat for the Lions as they slip to their first loss of the 2017 tour after Ihaia West’s superb late try handed the Blues a famous win for the Super Rugby outfit.

The inquest will no doubt be a painful one for Warren Gatland and his side but there were certainly marked improvements from Saturday’s stuttering win over the Provincial Barbarians.

Defensively, the Lions were much better and they dominated for large periods at the set piece with the likes of Itoje, Lawes and Stander enjoying good games but they paid for their indiscipline and were out-scored three tries to one.

We’ll have a full report and reaction to come from Eden Park shortly as well as live analysis with Murray Kinsella over on The42′s Facebook page at 12pm Irish time.

Until then, thanks for joining us and goodbye!

About the author:

Ryan Bailey

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