The British and Irish Lions made a winning if unconvincing start to their Tour of New Zealand with a 13-7 victory over the Provincial Barbarians in Whangarei.
A starting line up containing three Irishmen in Johnny Sexton, Rory Best and Iain Henderson were made to work for the win by a Barbarians side with Lions head coach Warren Gatland’s son Bryn at fly half.
An unconvincing display in the first of ten fixtures saw the Lions come from behind after a Sam Anderson-Heather try, converted by Bryn Gatland, had seen the home side – comprising fringe players from Super Rugby – take a 7-3 lead into the break.
The Lions’ first half points coming from a Sexton penalty.
Scotland’s Greig Laidlaw added another penalty before England’s Anthony Watson crossed in the 53rd minute to put the Lions back in front.
Owen Farrell added the extras but then missed a penalty that would have given the Lions some breathing space. Instead they had to see off a late surge from the home side before they could celebrate getting their tour off to a winning start.
“We got held up over the line four times, we created some chances, just a little bit of inaccuracy but we might have pulled away,” says Gatland.
“We got a lot out of tonight’s game compared to playing the Barbarians in Hong Kong. It was a good hit out for us I was pleased with the energy from the bench, I thought that was important. Some things to work on but a win is a win.”
The Lions are next in action on Wednesday (7 June) against the Blues (kick-off 08:35 BST).
Provincial Barbarians: L Laulala; S Vaka, I Finau, D Sweeney, S Reece, B Gatland, J Stratton, A Ross, S Anderson-Heather, O Jager, J Goodhue, K Mewett, J Tucker, L Boshier, M Dunshea. Replacements: A Makalio, T Fahamokioa, M Renata, M Matich, P Rowe, R Judd, J Lowe, J Ngaluafe.
British and Irish Lions: S Hogg; A Watson, J Joseph, B Te’o, T Seymour; J Sexton, G Laidlaw; J Marler, R Best, K Sinckler, AW Jones, I Henderson, R Moriarty, S Warburton, T Faletau. Replacements: J George, M Vunipola, T Furlong, G Kruis, J Tipuric, R Webb, O Farrell, E Daly.