Relief for Lions as Barbarians provide stern opening test

Leinster star Sexton places the ball as the rain falls at the Toll Stadium in Whangarei

Leinster star Sexton places the ball as the rain falls at the Toll Stadium in Whangarei

Provincial Barbarians coach Clayton McMillan insists "there's a lot of water to run under the bridge" before the British and Irish Lions can be dismissed as genuine challengers to an all-conquering All Blacks side.

Self-employed maintenance engineer Sam Anderson-Heather's try put the Barbarians 7-3 ahead at the break, with Farrell forced to rescue the tourists in a wholly unconvincing victory.

The Lions are next in action on Wednesday (7 June) against the Blues (kick-off 08:35 BST). "For us the most important thing was the result and getting the tour off to a good start and we can go away knowing that there are a number of things for us to work on and some positives out there in terms of the opportunities and chances that we did create, and knowing that we have to be better at finishing them".

Asked to describe his emotions on seeing his son Bryn perform so impressively for the Barbarians, and to assess his performance, Gatland said: "It was special really. The Lions held out, and credit to them for that, but I'm just hugely proud of my players for sticking at it and producing a fine performance like that".

But the Baabass were not deterred and replied with the sole try of the half orchestrated by Warren Gatland's son, Bryn, risky up-and-under came spiralling back to earth deep inside the Lions 22.

It seemed likely the Lions would eventually take control and they seemed to be on the road to achieving this with Jonny Sexton knocking over a penalty to get the Lions on the board, but the Baabaas has other ideas.

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Sexton's decision to kick for goal when the Lions were awarded an early penalty for a ruck infringement brought jeers from the partisan home crowd, though they soon turned to cheers as he missed the target with his first shot at goal.

"It was a tough match, very tough", Gatland said.

As an aside, he suggested that jet lag was a factor in the performance, and that their sponsored drive in a fleet of Land Rovers contributed to the back spasms suffered by Kyle Sinkler and Ross Moriarty. We've learnt a lot tonight in terms of how tough it is to come to New Zealand, how motivated the teams are going to be against us.

Gatland will make 15 changes to the starting line-up for their next hit out, while those who started in Whangarei will have Sunday off, before returning to training on Monday. "That's the learning from tonight, there's a number of things that collectively we can get better at and there's probably, individually some of the things, some of the decision-making from us that will help us improve going into the next couple of games".

"We get thrown into hard situations but that's how you find out about yourself as a team", Warburton said.

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