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Dublin: 10 °C Sunday 24 March, 2019


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Good morning one and all and welcome along to the start of our coverage of the 2017 Lions tour, as Warren Gatland’s side begin their preparations for the Test series with a fixture against the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians.

Today presents the first assignment in what promises to be the stiffest of tasks for the Lions — beating the All Blacks on home soil — but also offers the 23 selected the chance to stake an early claim for Test selection.

For the next six weeks, we’ll be bringing you every kick of the ball from New Zealand live and all it all starts here.

Kick off in Whangarei is fast approaching at 8.35am Irish time and we’ll have all the build up between now and then.

The Lions are in the house, and the good news is that the incessant rain has stopped and the Toll Stadium is looking a picture for this opening fixture for the 2017 tour.

Sam Warburton arrives Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

A view of the Lions changing room Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

A general view of Toll Stadium Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Jonathan Sexton arrives Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Warren Gatland Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Right, before we go any further let’s take a check on the teams.

Johnny Sexton, Rory Best and Iain Henderson all start for the Lions while Tadhg Furlong will be hoping to get his chance off the bench. Jared Payne, originally named among the replacements, has since had to withdraw through injury.

Overall, it’s a strong side Gatland has picked with captain Sam Warburton leading the tourists and there is serious quality on the bench, too.


15. Stuart Hogg
14. Anthony Watson
13. Jonathan Joseph
12. Ben Te’o
11. Tommy Seymour
10. Johnny Sexton
9. Greig Laidlaw

1. Joe Marler
2. Rory Best
3. Kyle Sinckler
4. Alun Wyn Jones
5. Iain Henderson
6. Ross Moriarty
7. Sam Warburton
8. Taulupe Faletau


16. Jamie George
17. Mako Vunipola
18. Tadhg Furlong
19. George Kruis
20. Justin Tipuric
21. Rhys Webb
22. Owen Farrell
23. Elliot Daly

NZ Provincial Barbarians:

15. Luteru Laulala (Counties Manukau)
14. Sam Vaka (Counties Manukau)
13. Inga Finau (Canterbury)
12. Dwayne Sweeney (Waikato)
11. Sevu Reece (Waikato)
10. Bryn Gatland (North Harbour)
9. Jack Stratton (Canterbury)

1. Aidan Ross (Bay of Plenty)
2. Sam Anderson-Heather (Otago) (captain)
3. Oliver Jager (Canterbury)
4. Josh Goodhue (Northland)
5. Keepa Mewett (Bay of Plenty)
6. James Tucker (Waikato)
7. Lachlan Boshier (Taranaki)
8. Mitchell Dunshea (Canterbury)


16. Andrew Makalio (Tasman)
17. Tolu Fahamokioa (Wellington)
18. Marcel Renata (Auckland)
19. Matt Matich (Northland)
20. Peter Rowe – Vice Captain (Wanganui)
21. Richard Judd (Bay of Plenty)
22. Jonah Lowe (Hawke’s Bay)
23. Joe Webber (Bay of Plenty)

Ryan Bailey here to guide you through all the action as it happens while Murray Kinsella is in position at Toll Stadium as we bring you minute-by-minute coverage of this 2017 tour opener.

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



Weeks, months and years. The waiting is almost over but before we get underway, take some time to browse through our pre-match offerings from New Zealand.

Tadgh Furlong Tadgh looks good in the Lions gear. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Warren Gatland with his son Bryn Gatland Warren Gatland and his son Bryce, who starts for the NZ Provincial Barbarians this morning. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Jonathan Sexton Johnny warming up in Whangarei. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

The rain has relented and the atmosphere has been building in Whangarei all day with a sell out crowd of 20,000 expected inside Toll Stadium for this one.

Which way do you see the opening game of the 2017 tour going?

Poll Results:

Lions win (445)
NZ Provincial Barbarians (78)
Draw (8)

Here come the Lions! Sam Warburton leads the tourists onto the field and we’re just about set for kick off. Let’s do this!


Sevu Reece gathers the kick off and the hosts are enjoying plenty of ball in the opening exchanges. After a period of sustained possession, the NZ Provincial Barbarians win a penalty and Gatland kicks for the corner. A slow start from the Lions.


The Lions being put under some serious pressure early doors and the hosts are really threatening on either wing with Sam Vaka and Reece possessing plenty of pace. Gatland kicks another penalty to touch.


The Barbarians win the line out but Alun Wyn Jones makes up for being offside with a some defensive effort in the maul. The Lions win the turnover and Laidlaw box kicks clear.


The Lions get their hands on the ball for the first time in the opening six minutes and the tourists have the chance to make their way up field after winning a penalty at the breakdown. Sexton finds a good touch on the far side.


Barbarians are offside again and the Lions have advantage as they spread it wide for the first time as Tommy Seymour makes a half-break but Hogg is unable to gather the offload. We’re going back for the penalty and Sexton has called for the kicking tee.


But Sexton, from just inside the Barbarians half, pushes his effort and it goes wide of the target.


Powerful start from Ben Te’o as he bulldozes through a couple of tackles to get the Lions on the front foot but after nine phases the move breaks down as Best fumbles at the breakdown.


A fairly disjointed start to proceedings in Whangarei but that’s hardly surprising as Joseph loses the ball in contact and the home side turn it over.


Boos ring around the ground again as Sexton opts to kick at goal after the Barbarians are penalised at the breakdown.

Flag 16Mins

Penalty! NZ Provincial Barbarians 0-3 Lions (Sexton)

He makes no mistake this time and the Lions are up and running.


What a tackle! Luteru Laulala cuts through and the Barbarians have a three on one here as the Lions are left scrambling. Inga Finau is on Laulala’s shoulder and latches onto the offload but Faletau gets back to save the day with a superb tackle.


The Barbarians really should have scored there but they still have a five metre scrum to put the Lions under some more pressure. Finau, meanwhile, hurt his shoulder in that move and is unable to continue.


TRY! NZ Provincial Barbarians 7-3 Lions (Anderson-Heather)

Gatland puts the Lions under pressure with a smart kick and from there, the hosts recycle the ball and inch closer to the line before captain Anderson-Heather crashes over from close range.


It has been an incredibly sloppy start from the Lions. From the restart, Gatland clears his lines but Best’s line out throw isn’t straight and another attacking position is lost. The Barbarians are growing in confidence after that try.


Ben Te'o tackled by Sam Anderson-Heather and Luteru Laulala Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The Lions players ahead of the game Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Kyle Sinckler tackled by Josh Goodhue and Jack Stratton Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO


The Lions have their first real opportunity of this match as Sinckler starts the move with a delightful pass and then a big carry but the final pass from Hogg to Watson on this near side went to ground. That was a two-on-one and should have been converted.


Much better from the Lions. Ben Te’o is again heavily involved as he steps inside a black shirt and releases Hogg, who picked a glorious line coming in off the wing. The Scot darts towards the line but is hauled down just short and the referee says the hosts have done enough to hold it up.


The Lions come close again as Laidlaw peels off the back of the scrum but the Barbarians continue to stand firm and shut the door right on the line.


The Lions continue to probe as Sexton is held up just short before Warburton is pinged by the referee for obstruction as he looked to force his way over. Gatland takes the penalty quickly and earns another as the Lions are penalised for not being 10.


Sloppy from Sexton on that occasion as he overhits his kick as it sails straight into touch. Two minutes to go until the break.


Iain Henderson and Sinckler combine with nice hands to open up the space for the excellent Faletau but once again the wall of black shirts scramble and do enough to hold the Welsh number eight up.


Incredibly sloppy but the Lions have another chance here as we go back for a penalty in front of the posts and Sexton calls for a scrum. This will be the last play of the half.

Flag 44Mins

Half-time! NZ Provincial Barbarians 7-3 Lions 

Joseph slides over and looks to have got it down but the referee says he was held up and that’s it for the first period.


Not the best start for the Lions.


Ross Moriarty tackled by Sam Anderson-Heather and Josh Goodhue Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Jonathan Sexton kicks a penalty Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Stuart Hogg with Mitchell Dunshea Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO


Too many mistakes from the Lions in that first half and plenty of early rust around as the Barbarians have taken full advantage to take a 7-3 lead into the break.

Gatland’s side improved as the half wore on but despite enjoying territory in the last 20 minutes, they were unable to turn possession into points with Hogg, in particular, squandering a glorious chance on this near side.

Sexton’s penalty is the only points on the board for the tourists so far but the Ireland out-half has struggled with his opposite number, Bryn Gatland, pulling the strings for the hosts.

Expect changes from the Lions at half time and throughout the second half and certainly an intriguing 40 minutes of rugby awaits.

Flag 41Mins

And we’re back underway at the start of this second half. Sexton sets the ball rolling.


Lions win a penalty in front of the posts from the off and after turning down two shots at goal in the first period, the kicking tee has been called for.

Sexton is down receiving treatment so Laidlaw will line this one up.

Flag 43Mins

Penalty! NZ Provincial Barbarians 7-6 Lions (Laidlaw)

The Scottish scrum-half strikes it sweetly and it sails between the posts, as the Lions move back to within a point.


Sexton is back up and appears to be fine as he’s released by Sinckler, who has been everywhere today. Laidlaw then chips over the top beautifully and his kick trickles into touch on the far side to hand the Lions some territory.


The Saracens trio of Owen Farrell, Jamie George and George Kruis are ready and waiting on the touchline as Gatland prepares to make his first changes.


Huge hit from replacement hooker Makalio on Alun Wyn Jones and the crowd enjoyed that as the Welsh second row knocks on in contact.

Meanwhile, Johnny Sexton’s evening is over as he’s replaced by Farrell after 48 minutes but Tadhg Furlong is on as Gatland replaces the front row.


Rush of blood to the head from the otherwise Sinckler there as he takes a quick penalty and then gives away one when he enters contact. Frustration for the Lions.

Flag 55Mins

TRY! NZ Provincial Barbarians 7-13 Lions (Watson)

Farrell makes an immediate impact as he sets Moriarty away and then plays the final pass for Watson to jink over in the corner for the Lions’ first try. The English out-half converts to extend the lead.


Sam Warburton with Lachlan Boshier Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Lions' fans during the game Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Sam Anderson-Heather scores a try Source: Photosport/Andrew Cornaga/INPHO


Here’s the Anthony Watson try which has put the Lions back into the lead.


Bryn Gatland has been excellent tonight and he’s really played with confidence and poise on the biggest night of his young career. The out-half pings a kick in behind the Lions and it’s perfectly weighted as it trickles into touch.


Another change for the Lions as Rhys Webb replaces Laidlaw.

The Barbarians win the turnover and now have a great chance to turn the screw again and put pressure on the tourists.


Lions beginning to take control of proceedings now as an attacking maul is hauled down and the visitors win the penalty. Farrell thinks about it and decides he’ll go for a goal, a decision which doesn’t go down too well with the natives.


And he hits the post! That was a poor kick from Farrell and he knows it as he apologises to his team-mates.


Gatland makes his penultimate change as Warburton makes way for Justin Tipuric. Into the final 13 minutes now.


Tipuric is straight into the action as he pounces on a loose ball after Farrell launched an up-and-under. The flanker finds his Ospreys team-mate Rhys Webb but the Welsh scrum-half is reeled in and he then knocks it on.


Let’s hope Steve Hansen and the All Blacks aren’t watching this very lethargic display from the Lions as they continue to make sloppy mistakes in both defence and attack.


The Barbarians finishing strongly here and they’re building the phases as we head into the final eight minutes. They’re looking dangerous but the red shirts are doing enough defensively to keep the door shut.


The Lions are making heavy work of this as the Barbarians continue to throw the ball around in search of a late score. Three minutes to go.


The hosts win a penalty and kick deep into Lions territory. They go for the driving maul but Mako Vunipola steals it and wins the scrum for his side, much to the relief of his team-mates.

A win is a win but this opening fixture was all about performance and Gatland’s men failed to deliver. Anthony Watson’s second-half try was the difference but that was a very underwhelming start to the 2017 tour.

Thanks for joining us this morning and remember we’ll have plenty more from Whangerai throughout the day. The Lions are next in action on Wednesday when they face the Blues at Eden Park in Auckland. Until then, goodbye!

About the author:

Ryan Bailey