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Thursday 2 February 2023 Dublin: 10°C
# Ruthless
'To have played two games and lost two games is pretty frustrating for me'
Robbie Henshaw was disappointed with the Lions’ inability to see out a win in Dunedin.

Murray Kinsella reports from Dunedin

ROBBIE HENSHAW’S LIONS tour hasn’t fully ignited yet, but he delivered several reminders of his quality in the dramatic 23-22 defeat to the Highlanders on Tuesday night.

The Leinster man has found himself in the midweek team for his first two Lions appearances, and there is little doubt he would love to jump into the Saturday team to face the Maori All Blacks in Rotorua this weekend.

Robbie Henshaw dejected after the game Dan Sheridan / INPHO Henshaw was gutted by the Lions' defeat. Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

The 24-year-old thrives with the very best players around him and given that Warren Gatland will field an XV that is close to the Lions’ first Test side on Saturday, Henshaw will be desperate to be involved.

Speaking after the defeat in Dunedin, the centre was deeply disappointed to have been part of a losing Lions team.

“To be in the red shirt is a privilege and we want to win and do ourselves proud, do the jersey proud,” said Henshaw. “To have played two games now and lost two games is pretty frustrating for me personally.

“I’m sure the lads inside are in a similar boat, so we’ll have to move on from it but we need to be better at keeping the foot on the throat and finishing off teams when we have that type of lead.”

Henshaw did look to some of the positives for the Lions, particularly the fact that they scored three tries, but his sheer frustration was obvious post-match.

The Ireland centre was annoyed at the Lions’ inability to close out the game having got into a 22-13 lead after Sam Warburton’s try and he said it will feel like one that got away.

“It’s a disappointing result having gotten into that lead, we looked to be in control and it’s a big learning for us to not let teams back in, especially teams like Highlanders.

Robbie Henshaw dejected after the game Dan Sheridan / INPHO Henshaw has tasted defeat twice. Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

“Credit to them for coming back. They had a dominant set-piece in the scrum and they got a couple of penalties and got into our half. But it’s definitely a massive learning – if you let teams like that, the Maoris next weekend or the All Blacks in a week’s time, back in they’ll get back there and demolish you.

“It’s a pretty tough pill to swallow, to be honest. We can’t let teams back in that easy, simple as. There were a few basic errors that gave them opportunities and they took them.”

The high pace that the New Zealand sides play at has been the most valuable lesson for Henshaw in his two opening games against the Blues and the Highlanders.

“The speed the play at, they look to play a high-tempo game,” said the centre. “They play faster rugby than we’re used to and that’s the challenge: getting used to that and being 100% switched on all the time.

“They take quick throw-ins, they take quick taps when you’ve turned your back and that’s about us being ready and prepared for what these teams throw at us.”

While Henshaw had some big moments to remind Gatland of his quality and Iain Henderson was perhaps the pick of the Irish, it wasn’t such a good night for their national team-mate Jared Payne.

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Presented with a fine opportunity in the 15 shirt after Stuart Hogg’s tour was ended by injury, Payne produced several handling errors.

Robbie Henshaw with Dillon Hunt Billy Stickland / INPHO Henshaw carried well for the Lions. Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

His knock-on of the restart after Warburton’s try was particularly damaging, inviting pressure from the Highlanders just after the Lions had moved 22-13 ahead.

“I think Jared grew into the game,” said Henshaw. “He was obviously unlucky with the restart and he’s pretty frustrated at the moment. He’s a class player, he’ll get over that and he’s been around so long, he knows these teams inside out.

“So I don’t think it’s too big a worry for us, he’s an experienced player so he’ll be moving on from it.”

While Payne appears to have damaged his Test chances, Henshaw will be hoping that he gets a big final audition on Saturday in Rotorua.

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