The Lions are the ultimate party-poopers.

For the second time in as many weekends they rolled into town, found a local fanbase ready to party at their expense and quickly pulled the plug on the music.

Spies stationed at central city bars reported an influx of patrons from halfway through the second half, as many who were cold and wet on the banks of Rotorua International Stadium chose to leave (very) early in the realisation there was no way back for the Maori.

In many respects Rotorua felt the same as Christchurch, where the Lions sucked the life out of the Crusaders - a better side than the Maori All Blacks - and the majority of the crowd. Whereas the tourists' muscularity and line-speed defence were impressive in the broken southern city, in Rotorua they elevated those elements and added absolute setpiece authority to the mix.


You don't have like the way they achieve they achieve their dominance - last night was rugby's version a stronger man hold a plastic bag over the head of a weakling and watching them writhe - but you might start to admire it.

So complete was the Lions' strangulation, if you were forced to pick a man of the match for the Maori you would have probably gone for Tiki Taane, who delivered rousing pre-match and halftime performances.

You could argue that Rotorua signalled the start of the serious business. The tourist town was fair fizzing as thousands of jetlagged Lions' fans joined the fray after arriving in the country late this week.

On Friday they packed the bars and restaurants of Eat St and watched the All Blacks add some froth and bubble in an emphatic win over a weak Samoa. Warren Gatland and his coaching and management staff were watching, too, at the brightly lit Ambrosia bar (much to the surprise of those British & Irish fans who walked off the street to be confronted by the men who will go a long way to determining whether their trip will be endured or unforgettable).

They would have seen some passages of play from the All Blacks that were scary good, but would have also recognised that Samoa were not able to challenge the All Blacks in any of the areas they will look to exploit.

Indeed, Gatland seemed fair bullish after the game, calling Hansen out for suggesting the Lions were going to call up a whole heap of extra bodies and split the squad into two (he got the first bit right at least).

"[Hansen] has been doing a lot of press conferences and I can only take that as a sign of respect that he is a little bit worried. It's unlike Steve and maybe he is worried by potentially how good this team can be."


Gatland's shots at Hansen could be ready many different ways. It might be genuine frustration at outsiders questioning his methodology. It might be mind games. It might be a publicity stunt knowing that the country has gone America's Cup crazy.

It most likely is, however, a simple case of two alpha-males who cannot bear the thought of the other one having the last word.

But you can twist Hansen's accusation to find a truth that even Gatland would concede: the Lions can live with losing on Tuesdays if it means spoiling at least two more Saturday celebrations.