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Martin hails ‘best ever’ Lions

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<B>Classic Lions 7<br>Classic All Blacks 0</B><br>Allan Martin hailed his Lions as the best ever after they dumped New Zealand out of the World Rugby Classic last night.<br>The Lions manager described the narrow win over the defending champion All Blacks as the ‘best team performance I’ve ever seen’.<br>Andy Craig’s second half try was enough to separate the two teams in a war of attrition that saw the majority of the game played in the middle third of the pitch.<br>The Lions dominated possession for most of the 60 minutes but up against the Kiwi’s blitz defence rarely broke the gainline and while they controlled for long periods with a constant pick and go approach, often struggled to get the ball out wide or find space to exploit.<br>When running lines did open up the All Blacks and the Lions closed them just as quickly and the ball was turned over countless times as first one team, then the other, infringed at the breakdown.<br>The All Blacks meanwhile failed to create a single try-scoring opportunity, which was testament to the massive amount of work done by the Lions pack, and while the Kiwis began by trying to exploit quick first phase ball, by the end they were having to run through five and six phases as they tried to create even the smallest of spaces.<br>Referee Alan Lewis did his best to keep the game moving by being much stricter at the breakdown than others have been at the tournament, but the wind that has whipped round the National Sports Centre all week made kicking for position a lottery and led to a seemingly endless series of scrums.<br>Uncontested though they were, the ball from the set piece was inevitably slowed down within two phases and while the likes of Kevin Nepia, the All Black prop who could be a front row all on his own, or Colin Charvis, the Lions flanker, made some hard yards up the middle, moves often broke down as defensive pressure forced penalties and turnovers.<br>In the end a slight error in judgement from Caleb Ralph, the Kiwi wing, some remarkable footwork from Ben Hinshelwood, and the finishing of Craig decided matters.<br>Following a scoreless first half, the second began in much the same vein with both sides hammering each other at close quarters, going sideways, backwards but not very far forwards.<br>It took 10 minutes for the Lions to get out of their own half and when they did finally cross the half way line they were smashed backwards with Glen Marsh’s bone-jarring hit on Shane Byrne indicative of the game up to that point.<br>Hal Luscombe began the move that finally broke the deadlock, running from inside his own 22 he lured Ralph off his wing a space opened up for Hinshelwood and the Scotland full back tore down the right hand touchline. <br>A tap tackle from Brendan Laney appeared to have brought matters to an end, but Hinshelwood somehow kept his balance long enough to flick the ball inside where Craig hacked it on and dived on the ball in the corner. Andy Gomersall’s impressive conversion into the wind put the Lions 7-0 and that was the way it stayed.<br>The game reverted to type after that with the All Blacks conceding penalties their attempts to grab a score of their own and the Lions, guided by Gomersall, happy to run down the clock by keeping the ball tight.<br>“That’s the best team performance I’ve seen since I’ve been here,” said Martin. “It was never going to be easy and there was nothing in it really.<br>“All credit to New Zealand they contributed to an enthralling game that could have gone either way. It was just on a fluke of a line, and Ben Hinshelwood, his balance, how he kept upright I don’t know.<br>“I’m really pleased that we won, we need to be in the final and it was a really pleasing performance.”<br>The Lions now wait for the winners of this afternoon’s semi-final between Argentina and Canada (4.30pm) and the extra day’s rest could prove vital to Martin’s team.<br>“It (the extra day) will be enormous for us,” said Martin. “I really do feel for whoever goes through because they’ve got to go and play the next day. The extra day will mean a lot. No one is carrying any serious knocks, it’s just the normal bumps and bruises.”<br>In yesterday’s other games USA booked their place in tomorrow’s Plate final, against either South Africa or Australia who play this evening (5.45pm) with a comfortable 28-10 win over Italy.<br>Tries from Luis Tulio, Simon Dogbe, Mike Harvey and Leon Neville were enough to see them past a spirited, but limited, Italian side making their debut at the Classic.<br>Still short of numbers, Italy once again borrowed heavily from the ranks of local players and Bermuda’s Mike Kane scored Italy’s second try after Simone Martini had briefly dragged his side to within two points early on at 7-5.<br>Kane’s try for Italy was his second score of the day after he also touched down for a Bermuda Select XV in their 24-10 win over Montreal Irish.<br>The Island side came from 10-0 down, following Josh Reznick’s opening score and a penalty and conversion from Trevor Lane, to run in four tries and in the end finish comfortable winners.<br>Dan Cole scored early in the second half to get Bermuda on the scoreboard, and was followed over the try-line by Kane, Dave Porter and Paul Davis. Tim Peplow kicked two conversions.

Classic Lions 7

Classic All Blacks 0

Allan Martin hailed his Lions as the best ever after they dumped New Zealand out of the World Rugby Classic last night.

The Lions manager described the narrow win over the defending champion All Blacks as the ‘best team performance I’ve ever seen’.

Andy Craig’s second half try was enough to separate the two teams in a war of attrition that saw the majority of the game played in the middle third of the pitch.

The Lions dominated possession for most of the 60 minutes but up against the Kiwi’s blitz defence rarely broke the gainline and while they controlled for long periods with a constant pick and go approach, often struggled to get the ball out wide or find space to exploit.

When running lines did open up the All Blacks and the Lions closed them just as quickly and the ball was turned over countless times as first one team, then the other, infringed at the breakdown.

The All Blacks meanwhile failed to create a single try-scoring opportunity, which was testament to the massive amount of work done by the Lions pack, and while the Kiwis began by trying to exploit quick first phase ball, by the end they were having to run through five and six phases as they tried to create even the smallest of spaces.

Referee Alan Lewis did his best to keep the game moving by being much stricter at the breakdown than others have been at the tournament, but the wind that has whipped round the National Sports Centre all week made kicking for position a lottery and led to a seemingly endless series of scrums.

Uncontested though they were, the ball from the set piece was inevitably slowed down within two phases and while the likes of Kevin Nepia, the All Black prop who could be a front row all on his own, or Colin Charvis, the Lions flanker, made some hard yards up the middle, moves often broke down as defensive pressure forced penalties and turnovers.

In the end a slight error in judgement from Caleb Ralph, the Kiwi wing, some remarkable footwork from Ben Hinshelwood, and the finishing of Craig decided matters.

Following a scoreless first half, the second began in much the same vein with both sides hammering each other at close quarters, going sideways, backwards but not very far forwards.

It took 10 minutes for the Lions to get out of their own half and when they did finally cross the half way line they were smashed backwards with Glen Marsh’s bone-jarring hit on Shane Byrne indicative of the game up to that point.

Hal Luscombe began the move that finally broke the deadlock, running from inside his own 22 he lured Ralph off his wing a space opened up for Hinshelwood and the Scotland full back tore down the right hand touchline.

A tap tackle from Brendan Laney appeared to have brought matters to an end, but Hinshelwood somehow kept his balance long enough to flick the ball inside where Craig hacked it on and dived on the ball in the corner. Andy Gomersall’s impressive conversion into the wind put the Lions 7-0 and that was the way it stayed.

The game reverted to type after that with the All Blacks conceding penalties their attempts to grab a score of their own and the Lions, guided by Gomersall, happy to run down the clock by keeping the ball tight.

“That’s the best team performance I’ve seen since I’ve been here,” said Martin. “It was never going to be easy and there was nothing in it really.

“All credit to New Zealand they contributed to an enthralling game that could have gone either way. It was just on a fluke of a line, and Ben Hinshelwood, his balance, how he kept upright I don’t know.

“I’m really pleased that we won, we need to be in the final and it was a really pleasing performance.”

The Lions now wait for the winners of this afternoon’s semi-final between Argentina and Canada (4.30pm) and the extra day’s rest could prove vital to Martin’s team.

“It (the extra day) will be enormous for us,” said Martin. “I really do feel for whoever goes through because they’ve got to go and play the next day. The extra day will mean a lot. No one is carrying any serious knocks, it’s just the normal bumps and bruises.”

In yesterday’s other games USA booked their place in tomorrow’s Plate final, against either South Africa or Australia who play this evening (5.45pm) with a comfortable 28-10 win over Italy.

Tries from Luis Tulio, Simon Dogbe, Mike Harvey and Leon Neville were enough to see them past a spirited, but limited, Italian side making their debut at the Classic.

Still short of numbers, Italy once again borrowed heavily from the ranks of local players and Bermuda’s Mike Kane scored Italy’s second try after Simone Martini had briefly dragged his side to within two points early on at 7-5.

Kane’s try for Italy was his second score of the day after he also touched down for a Bermuda Select XV in their 24-10 win over Montreal Irish.

The Island side came from 10-0 down, following Josh Reznick’s opening score and a penalty and conversion from Trevor Lane, to run in four tries and in the end finish comfortable winners.

Dan Cole scored early in the second half to get Bermuda on the scoreboard, and was followed over the try-line by Kane, Dave Porter and Paul Davis. Tim Peplow kicked two conversions.

Photo by Mark Tatem Bermuda skipper Peter Dunkerley lays the ball back during his side's 24-10 win over Montreal Irish at the National Sports Centre yesterday.
Photo by Mark Tatem Classic Lions scrum half Andy Gomersall gets the ball out from the back of a ruck during last night's Classic semi-final against the All Blacks.
Photo by Mark Tatem Italy flanker Maurizio Zaffiri put his body in harms way during his side's Plate semi-final defeat to USA last night.
Photo by Mark Tatem Flying Scotsman: Classic Lions full back Ben Hinshelwood races down the wing to set up the only try of last night's Classic semi-final against the All Blacks at the National Sports Centre
Photo by Mark Tatem Andy Gomersall (left) converts Andy Craig's try against the All Blacks.

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Published November 10, 2011 at 11:42 pm (Updated November 10, 2011 at 11:40 pm)

Martin hails ‘best ever’ Lions

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