The stunningly competitive performance by the NZ Provincial Barbarians against their far more famous opposites in Whangarei was fueled by a determination to do themselves proud based on the fact no one gave them a chance.

Skipper Sam Anderson-Heather, a 29-year-old Otago hooker, will go back to work tomorrow running his property management company in Dunedin. In the meantime the man who spoke eloquently on the eve of the game about this opportunity to feature against the Lions for himself and his teammates will enjoy the feeling of pride and vindication that he and his mates gave a far better showing than many predicted.

And tinged with that will be disappointment. Up 7-3 at halftime, famously keeping the Lions try-less in the first stanza, the Barbarians gave ground slightly in the second half due to the superior strength of the opposition but they never knowingly conceded a centimetre.

"I've got a lot of work to get through; Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday are pretty full so I'll literally be straight back to work Monday morning," Anderson-Heather said afterwards. "Life goes on."

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"For me it's still disappointing. I've always believed from day one that we could win this game. As [coach] Clayton [McMillan] said, we had an opportunity there.

"Probably the biggest galvanizing factor was to go out there and back each other up and look after your mate."

McMillan, with the help of former All Black Roger Randle and former Crusader Joe Maddock, did a remarkable job to mould this side of second-stringers. They came with a defiant attitude of in-your-face defence, but also an unorthodox attacking game plan. And they very nearly did it.

"I don't think you're a rugby player or a coach if you don't go into a game hoping to win," McMillan said. "As you all know, not many people gave us a chance but a couple of minutes left in the game we had that. Credit to the Lions, they held out. I'm just incredibly proud of our lads for fronting up and staying true to the game we always said we were going to play."

McMillan added: "We tried to keep things pretty simple. It wasn't perfect. I'm pretty sure when we reflect on the game we'll see the Lions missed out on a number of opportunities, but I'm incredibly proud of the scrambled defence. That dogged determination not to have them score points. That was probably the defining take-out of our game - we wanted to stay in the fight the whole game.

"I'm sure they'll be a little bit disappointed that they didn't achieve a lot of things they might have expected to happen in the game. But from my point of view they've just got off a plane a couple of days ago and there will be a bit of rust there. We were an unknown entity... most of the other teams they will be able to get a bit of footage on and have a lot more detail so they will be more prepared.

"It wasn't what they were looking for I'd imagine, but I don't think it's terminal. There's a lot of water to go under the bridge yet."