British and Irish Lions beat Crusaders 12-3 to win second tour match
|Crusaders v British and Irish Lions|
|Crusaders (3) 3|
|British and Irish Lions (9) 12|
|Pens: Farrell 4|
The British and Irish Lions shut down the free-scoring Crusaders to make it two victories from three matches on their tour of New Zealand.
Coach Warren Gatland started arguably his strongest team so far and it was a much improved performance against Super Rugby's in-form outfit in a 12-3 win.
In a tight game on a greasy surface, it came down to the penalty count.
Owen Farrell kicked four from five attempts for the Lions, while Richie Mo'unga slotted one for the Crusaders.
It inflicted a first defeat on the New Zealanders this season, and the victory will give the Lions a much needed boost after a shaky start to the tour.
Gatland's side return to action against the Highlanders in Dunedin on Tuesday (08:35 BST) - their fourth of six warm-up matches before the first of three Tests against the All Blacks on 24 June.
The Lions begin to roar
After a narrow win in their opener against the Provincial Barbarians, the Lions put in a less-than-convincing performance in their defeat by Kiwi franchise the Blues on Wednesday.
They faced their toughest challenge yet against the Crusaders, who came into the match having won 14 consecutive games and boasted nine All Blacks in their squad.
The match felt as tense as a Test match, and the Lions rose to the challenge.
Farrell's accuracy with the boot helped the visitors capitalise on their opponents' scrappy errors, and the Lions defence was particularly impressive, earning nine turnovers compared to four from the Crusaders.
Like the Blues in the previous match, the Super Rugby outfit looked impressive on the counter-attack but the Lions were able to nullify the danger and keep them pinned back in their territory.
The Crusaders thought they had crossed the whitewash in the first half after a Mo'unga break, but the television match official ruled it was inconclusive, with a pile of players obstructing the view under the posts.
And early in the second half, George Bridge sprinted on to the end of a superb Jack Goodhue kick but his take was scuppered by the wet conditions.
Eyes on the tries
After showing an improvement in defence, the Lions' attention may now turn to their try-scoring ability - or lack of it, having only managed two so far on the tour.
Bath's Anthony Watson, who scored the opening try of the series, did go over again against the Crusaders but it was chalked off for a knock-on in the build-up.
Centre Jonathan Davies also had two decent chances early in the first half, but the wet conditions hindered the Welshman on the first attempt and he was blocked by Mo'unga on the second - a tackle which prevented the Scarlets centre returning to the field after a head injury assessment.
Team selection may also be a cause for concern for Gatland.
Full-back Stuart Hogg joined Davies back in the dressing room after receiving a nasty-looking laceration to the head following a collision with team-mate Conor Murray's elbow, while Dan Biggar missed out following a head injury against the Blues.
Analysis - 'The Lions are alive and kicking'
Former Lions and England Winger Ugo Monye
"Don't write off the Lions. There's something special about that jersey. A jersey that when worn can be empowering, and the boys looked just that - empowered.
"The Crusaders didn't play well, but they were also forced into poor play by a suffocating red wall in defence.
"The Lions have been slow starters but have made incremental improvements to give me and hopefully everyone watching enough evidence and hope to know they can create a real stir this summer.
"Taulupe Faletau, Conor Murray, Ben Te'o, George Kruis and Owen Farrell, to mention just a few, look like Test starters based on today."
We needed that - Gatland
Lions head coach Warren Gatland: "We needed that. That was the most important thing, the result.
"I thought our defence was outstanding, line-out was excellent, set-piece pretty good. We are creating opportunities we just need to finish off those chances."
Lions fly-half Owen Farrell: "I thought we were aggressive. We really got off the line [defensively], no matter where we were on the field.
"I thought we were really connected. We got up off the floor and pushed... and that gave us some great front-foot ball."
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Lions: S Hogg; G North, J Davies; B Te'o, L Williams; O Farrell; C Murray; M Vunipola, J George, T Furlong; AW Jones (capt), G Kruis; P O'Mahony, S O'Brien, T Faletau
Replacements: K Owens, J McGrath, D Cole, M Itoje, CJ Stander, R Webb, J Sexton, A Watson
Crusaders: I Dagg, S Tamanivalu, J Goodhue, D Havili, G Bridge, R Mo'unga, B Hall, J Moody, C Taylor, O Franks, L Romano, S Whitelock (capt), H Bedwell-Curtis, M Todd, J Taufua.
Replacements: B Funnell, W Crockett, M Alaalatoa, Q Strange, J Brown, M Drummond, M Hunt, T Bateman.