Lions tour: Key moments that tipped the balance in Lions v NZ Maori match
The Lions have proved far too strong for the New Zealand Maori one week out from the first test with a comprehensive 32-10 win at the Rotorua International Stadium. Here are some key moments.
MESSAM OPENS THE TRY-SCORING
The NZ Maori signalled their intentions early with a couple of quick lineout throws. Already behind 6-0 following two Leigh Halfpenny penalty successes, the NZ Maori sparked an attack from inside their own half in the 12th minute, winger Nehe Milner-Skudder chip-kicking behind the Lions' defence.
But Lions winger George North made a mess of securing the loose ball in the wet, slippery conditions. Maori No 8 Liam Messam reacted by toeing the ball through and winning the race to the ball over the line, with Damian McKenzie's successful conversion putting the Maori ahead 7-6 largely against the run of play.
LIONS' BREAKDOWN CONTROL
The NZ Maori had struggled to create genuine attacking opportunities throughout the first half but finally appeared to be generating some momentum when the forwards hit the ball up deep inside Lions territory with the half-time hooter having already sounded.
But with the NZ Maori seemingly in control, Lions lock Maro Itoje managed to get his big mits on the ball at a breakdown, the NZ Maori were penalised for holding on and the chance was lost, allowing the Lions to take a 12-10 lead into the break.
The mounting pressure on the NZ Maori came to a head when halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow was shown a yellow card by referee Jaco Peyper for a high tackle on Halfpenny inside the Maori quarter just seven minutes into the second half.
Peyper appeared to give Kerr-Barlow the benefit of the doubt as Halfpenny was falling into the tackle when Kerr-Barlow's shoulder made contact with the fullback's head.
So rather than a red card, Peyper pulled out a yellow and Kerr-Barlow was gone. Lions hooker Jamie George was denied a try from the resulting penalty after the Lions had kicked for the corner.
LIONS AWARDED PENALTY TRY
The Lions continued to turn the screws and after having flexed their muscles in the set pieces throughout the contest, and with Kerr-Barlow still cooling his heels in the sinbin, Peyper finally lost patience with the NZ Maoris' constant infringing and awarded a penalty try as the Lions pack forged irrepressibly towards the try-line.
More than anything, it highlighted the Maori All Blacks' inability to establish any sort of foothold as the Lions forwards maintained their stranglehold. Itoje scored soon after to help push the Lions out to an unassailable 29-10 lead.
HALFPENNY'S FAULTLESS GOALKICKING
The Lions are blessed with several world-class goalkickers and fullback Halfpenny appears to be at the top of the totem pole after producing a faultless goalkicking display.
His sixth penalty success just 12 minutes from fulltime, combined with the conversion to Itoje's try, gave him a 100 per cent record for both the match and the tour.
If there's one area where the Lions might have a genuine edge over the All Blacks in the coming three-test series it's arguably goalkicking, but as any self-respecting All Blacks supporter will tell you, this series won't be decided by the boot.