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‘Blacks’ win first battle, but the rugby war not over yet

By Frank Quinn
THIS is going to be a difficult few days for the Lions as they prepare for the second test of the tour. Last Saturday’s defeat gives the home nation the advantage that they sought but they are sure to really go for a second win on Saturday that would decide the series.
From an Irish point of view, it was a mixed bag when it came to individual performances. Conor Murray had a great opening quarter but faded somewhat before being replaced, Tadhg Furlong fought courageously throughout before he was called ashore and Peter O’Mahony put in a lot of effort but was not significantly prominent apart from a brilliant lineout steal. Sean O’Brien was our most outstanding performer. He was back to his brilliant best and he was the first forward on site to snatch the Lions brilliantly worked first try. It is always difficult to come on in the latter stages of a game and make an impression and Jonathan Sexton was well marshalled when he was sprung from the bench.
In the wake of Saturday’s game, the player ratings were interesting and varying with seven of the Lions’players receiving 7+ from the pundits.
The All Blacks would have targeted this opening test since their World Cup victory in 2015 in Twickenham but they will not be celebrating. They trained as usual on Sunday but it is doubtful if they can reproduce the slickness of their passing and the same enthusiasm this coming week-end.
When the Lions lose a game, there is always the predictable surge of excuses such as the staging of the tour so close to the end of the northern hemisphere’s long season, lack of player welfare and off the field matters such as publicity, long-hall flights and compulsory contractual obligations that keep the sponsors sweet.
There will be no excuses in this second test: second defeat and that’s it.

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