Lions look for cure to offload pain

3:00 PM BST

EDEN PARK, Auckland — The British & Irish Lions will focus on improving their discipline and offload prevention as they look to bounce back from their defeat to the Blues on Wednesday evening.

Warren Gatland took positives from the team’s performance despite seeing them fall to their first loss on the 2017 tour. He was pleased with their intensity and scrum, and believes areas which need to be improved are under their own control.

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But falling to a defeat in just their second match of the tour will be a wake-up call for the Lions. They struggled at times to cope with the pace at which the Blues shifted the ball, and the width they brought to the game.

They also found it difficult to cut down on the Blues’ offloading game, with Sonny Bill Williams’ star sleight of hand for Ihaia West’s match-winning try evidence of how New Zealand are so effective at shifting the ball from contact. It is an area the Lions will address.

“The offloading is only going to continue so we have to be a little bit better in stopping the offloading game,” Gatland said. “Generally we did that really well, I thought our line speed defensively coped with that. It was a moment of magic which you do get from New Zealand teams.

“We need to cut down on the number of errors and for me, it’s that moment where you have to stop the momentum. We need to look back at the try and how we went low in the tackles, so we need to make sure we go higher in those tackles to try and prevent the players getting the ball away in the offload situation.

“That’s a strength of New Zealand rugby as they can get the ball away in the tackles and that’s something we need to have a look at.”

The Blues produced eight offloads against the Lions, who could only muster four. Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Gatland also wants his team to improve their discipline after they gave away 13 penalties to the Blues, saying they need to “tighten up” on that area. The team is also adapting to getting the nudge in the pack, but referees allowing the opposition to play off collapsed scrums.

The Lions will be tough on themselves after defeat at Eden Park, but Gatland and his squad’s attention now shifts to their next match which is against the unbeaten Crusaders in Christchurch on Saturday.

“We have played a lot better tonight,” Gatland said. “We have put ourselves in a position to win the game. You can take a lot of positives from that and you can take a lot of things in your control that you can change and improve.

“Saturday is going to be another tough encounter but those players will have been together and gelled for that little bit longer and so I expect to see an improvement from tonight’s performance again on Saturday.”

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