The tour is back on track for the Lions, who showed in this victory over the Crusaders that they might have a bit about them after all. On a cold night at AMI Stadium, they matched the Crusaders punch for punch and emerged deserved victors.

It wasn't pretty but was effective; their defensive wall in particular offered Scott Robertson's men few opportunities, and the constant high kicks, while a boring tactic for many in the south, was pragmatic and right for the conditions.

The win by coach Warren Gatland's men allowed them to avoid becoming the first Lions side since 1908 to lose two of their first three matches and they will depart for Dunedin today and their match against the Highlanders on Tuesday night with a improved self-belief.

The Crusaders will be disappointed with their performance in their first loss of the season, and probably with French referee Mathieu Raynal, who was harsh on the home scrum and the red and blacks in general.


The Lions, though, will have a few gripes themselves. Owen Farrell believed his kick from in front five minutes after halftime was good, but it was waved away by the assistant referees and would have been a bone of contention had the Crusaders sneaked a close win.

Roberton's men just could not find their rhythm, though. That defensive pressure from Gatland's troops created errors but they made many uncharacteristic unforced mistakes, and Farrell's fourth penalty with time ticking away killed them off for good.

Credit to the Lions - they looked up for it; at last. There was niggle - mostly push and shove - but it showed their intent, and they were dominant in the lineout, usually an area of strength for the Crusaders.

Fullback Stuart Hogg was a victim of friendly fire when he ran into one of Conor Murray's elbows, the crowd chanting "off, off" to the Irish No9 when Hogg was forced off with blood streaming from his face.

The Crusaders fell victim to the sustained excellence of openside Sean O'Brien and No8 Toby Faletau.

Midfielder Ben Te'o ran straight, and, significantly for the visitors who have looked bereft of attacking ideas to this point, they looked prepared to try things.

Much of that was down to halfback Murray, a player who can hold claim to being one of the best in his position in the world.

The Crusaders have been successful this season because of their superior skill level and fitness, but they couldn't play the high-tempo game they prefer due in part to their handling errors and stifling Lions defence which put the Super Rugby leaders on the back foot.


Luke Romano spilled two kickoffs and Richie Mo'unga a kick and a pass. They all combined to stop the continuity they like to play with and it meant the Lions weren't as stretched as they could have been.

After a wobbly start, Gatland's campaign is back on track and perhaps all rugby supporters should be thankful for that.