Penalty Count

The Lions could drop players on back of abysmal discipline

The Lions’ discipline was abysmal even in victory over the All Blacks.

Murray Kinsella reports from Queenstown

THE LIONS HAVE struggled with their discipline throughout this tour of New Zealand and it very nearly cost them victory in the second Test against the All Blacks on Saturday.

Warren Gatland’s men produced a penalty count of 13 to allow the Kiwis to build a second-half lead even with only 14 men after Sonny Bill Williams had been red carded.

Jerome Garces shows a yellow card to Mako Vunipola Vunipola was sin binned in Wellington. Billy Stickland / INPHO Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

Mako Vunipola was sin binned for a dangerous clearout on Beauden Barrett, one of his four penalty concessions on the night in Westpac Stadium.

Conor Murray and Maro Itoje conceded two penalties each in the Lions’ ill-disciplined performance, but there have been guilty culprits across the squad on this tour.

As the Lions move from Wellington to Queenstown for a couple of relaxing days before they begin to build-up again for the final Test, fixing their discipline is an absolute priority. They understand that it could even cost them a series win.

“We will have to sit down and look at it in the cold light of day,” said assistant coach Graham Rowntree on Sunday. “It is not the same individuals. There is a trait to what we are doing, but it is not the same individuals.

“We can’t lose a Test series on the back of some stupid penalties. That would be unacceptable. How do you live with that for the rest of your life?

“We have got to sort it out because it is going to kill us. We have to sit them down and show them every day. We can’t be doing this.

“It is all about what you do in the heat of the battle under fatigue, you can’t be doing it. We have to keep reiterating that point to the players.”

And while Rowntree insisted that the same players were not always at fault across the course of games on this tour, he did accept that the Lions coaching staff will have to be ruthless in ensuring the penalty count drops next weekend.

Graham Rowntree Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Some players may even be in danger of losing their places on account of the poor discipline.

“If that is what it takes,” said Rowntree. “Gats has shown he is not afraid of doing things like that. But as I say, it is not as if it is the same offenders. We will be very frank and objective with the lads.

“The pictures are undeniable. That will be a big theme of the week.”

If the Lions can cut out those stupid penalties, they will give themselves a shot at what had looked like an unlikely series success against the All Blacks.

Gatland’s men remain the underdogs, but they have belief that they can be the first Lions squad since 1971 to win a series in New Zealand.

“There’s a series on the line,” said Rowntree. “How many of them have won a series in New Zealand? And what excites the guys is that there’s more in our game. There’s more to come in our game, we’ve got some great rugby players.

“The best rugby players in the home nations, and they’ve had a taste of it. After the first Test they were hurting, they were down. Now, let’s get this done. Let’s raise our game again.”

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