Lions tour: Warren Gatland's second stringers fail to impress in win over Chiefs

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Former Chief Jared Payne dives over for a Lions try.

The Lions' Iain Henderson is held up over the tryline.

Lions wing Jack Nowell dives over for his second try.

Chase Tiatia of the Chiefs charges forward.

Jared Payne of the Lions is congratulated on his try by Robbie Henshaw.

Chiefs captain Stephen Donald of the Chiefs looks on during the first half.

Lions wing Jack Nowell celebrates scoring a double.

Former Chief Jared Payne runs in the Lions' third try.

Siegfried Fisi'ihoi of the Chiefs skips out of a tackle and makes a break.

Robbie Henshaw of the Lions kicks the ball through.

Lions wing Jack Nowell dives over for his second try.

Former Chief Jared Payne is tackled.

Lions wing Jack Nowell is congratulated by team-mate Greig Laidlaw after scoring their team's opening try.

Greig Laidlaw of the Lions kicks downfield as Chiefs halfback Finlay Christie closes in.

Tim Nanai Williams of the Chiefs looks for a way around Robbie Hensha.

Dan Cole throws a pass for the Lions.

Lions wing Jack Nowell dives over to score the opening try.

The Lions' Joe Marler of the sits in the sin bin after receiving a yellow card for a late tackle.

Johnny Faauli of the Chiefs is tackled by the Lions' Elliot Daly.

Chiefs halfback Finlay Christie is hauled down by CJ Stander.

Chiefs second five-eighth Johnny Faauli runs hard at the Lions' defence.

Lions first five-eighth Dan Biggar tackles Tom Sanders of the Chiefs.

The Lions' Iain Henderson is held up over the tryline.

Lions captain Rory Best shouts instructions.

Chiefs first five-eighth Stephen Donald kicks a penalty goal.

Chiefs coach Dave Rennie walks along the sideline.

Lions coach Warren Gatland walks off the pitch ahead of the match.

Lions wing Jack Nowell is tackled by the Chiefs' Lachlan Boshier.

Chiefs captain Stephen Donald kicks the ball through.

Lions first five-eighth Dan Biggar throws a pass.

Liam Williams of the Lions is tackled by Chiefs captain Stephen Donald.

Courtney Lawes of the Lions and Dominic Bird of the Chiefs contest the ball in the lineout.

Chiefs wing Toni Pulu gets medical attention.

CJ Stander of the Lions is tackled.

The Lions huddle together before the match.

Chiefs halfback Finlay Christie is tackled by Iain Henderson of the Lions.

James Haskell of the Lions is tackled by the Chiefs' Chase Tiatia.

Robbie Henshaw of the Lions runs at Chiefs captain Stephen Donald.

Michael Allardice of the Chiefs drives the ball forward.

Liam Messam, centre, and his Chiefs team-mates perform the haka.

The Lions' Elliot Daly skips through the tackle of Finlay Christie.

Lions wing Jack Nowell checks on injured Chiefs wing Toni Pulu.

Robbie Henshaw of the Lions is stopped by the Chiefs defence.

Dan Cole of the Lions charges upfield.

James Haskell of the Lions is wrapped up by the Chiefs defence.

Fireworks before kick-off in Waikato.

The Lions face up to the Chiefs' haka.

Visiting Lions fans made the presence known.

Lions coach Warren Gatland looks on before kick-off.

A Chiefs fan gets ready for a big night.

Nervous Lions fans await the start of the game.

A view of the Lions' dressing room.

Lions fans arrive early for the Waikato clash.

Young Chiefs fans show their colours.

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OPINION: The scoreline suggests this was a homecoming to savour for Warren Gatland. But if the former Mooloos hooker turned Lions coach is honest with himself, that is half true at best.

Many of the mid-week Lions are not up to it.

Four days out from the first test at Eden Park, the Lions have to look elsewhere for major inspiration.

Michael Allardice hits the ball up for the Chiefs against the Lions in Hamilton.
PHIL WALTER/GETTY IMAGES

Michael Allardice hits the ball up for the Chiefs against the Lions in Hamilton.

Let's keep in mind this was a Chiefs team missing 10 players, six of those All Blacks. Stripped of so many stars, they will be the most depleted Super Rugby team the Lions face on this tour.

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Warren Gatland watched on as his Lions played the Chiefs in Hamilton.
DAVID ROGERS/GETTY IMAGES

Warren Gatland watched on as his Lions played the Chiefs in Hamilton.

Livewire halfback Finlay Christie and No 8 Tom Sanders played well for the Chiefs but Dave Rennie's men clearly missed their experienced guiding heads, with only Liam Messam and Hika Elliot backing up from the Maori match on the bench.

In a game that struggled to get off the ground, with errors and wayward passing regular unfortunate features for the 29,974 crowd, the Lions scored two nice second-half tries by adopting surprising ambition but a lot else of what they did with ball in hand was laboured and inaccurate. Some of their finishing remains poor.

Confidence may soar among sections of hopeful touring supporters on the back of dual wins by the test side over the Crusaders and Maori, but victory over the Chiefs alone must be kept in context.

Loose forward CJ Stander and fullback Liam Williams were impressive. Few others put genuine pressure on.

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From Rory Best's wonky lineout throwing to Greig Laidlaw's slow clearance and average box kicks; Joe Marler's dumb shoulder charge and Dan Biggar's indecisiveness from first five-eighth, the Lions weren't entirely convincing, though their set piece was strong and rush defence again caused problems. 

If Gatland picks on form there should be no place in his test squad for captain Sam Warburton. Sean O'Brien should start at openside flanker and brutal South African-born Stander is a must inclusion on the bench, with Peter O'Mahony expected to be named captain and Taulupe Faletau continuing his rampage from No 8.

Gatland will no doubt take a moment to savour this victory, coming as it does in his home town. A picture of him alongside other Waikato legends - Ian Foster and John Mitchell among them - is plastered on the walls under the Brian Perry stand.

He will certainly enjoy it more than the 40-7 pasting the Welsh copped here last year.

The reality, though, is these mid-week matches have switched from valuable build-up exercise to inconvenience for the Lions.

Gatland made that clear by calling up six players based on proximity and using them as bench fodder. He can't turnaround now and enthuse about their special nature. 

Given the personnel, more specifically those absent from both teams, this match has little relevance for the test series.

But we did learn if injuries strike some of Lions' key test players in the coming weeks, Gatland must be a tad nervous about many in his back-up brigade.

Before this his second-stringers lost to the Blues and Highlanders, and in Hamilton many did little to convince they should be in the 23 to face the All Blacks on Saturday.

As the real dance nears, optimism will need to be sourced elsewhere.

 - Stuff

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