The British and Irish Lions suffered their first defeat of the 2017 tour of New Zealand on Wednesday evening (local time) and as fans, coaches and pundits pick apart the result, there is one statistic which sits ominously apart from the rest.
Despite a typically impressive performance from Lions debutant CJ Stander, who led with carries and tackles, as well as scoring a try, the one statistic that isn’t mentioned from the game is the fact that the Blues are, on paper, the worst Super Rugby side the Lions will face this summer.
With six defeats so far in the southern league, the Blues should have presented the easiest Super Rugby test for the Lions, right? Instead, the Auckland side were the most dangerous in attack and the most frugal in defence, making the Lions look ordinary for significant portions of the game.
As Warren Gatland and his coaches sit down to figure out what to do next ahead of the imminent clash with the Crusaders on Saturday, perhaps it is worth remembering that the Lions next opponents currently top the Super Rugby table and have yet to lose this season.
With 14 straight wins and 522 points scored, it’s fair to say the Lions are set to face a whole new level of rugby sides in three days’ time. In case anyone is counting, 522 points in 14 games is an average of just north of 37 points per game.
Things don’t really get any easier for Gatland and co. following the match against the Crusaders. Clashes with the Chiefs, Hurricanes and Highlanders await, with each side also enjoying far better winning and defensive records than today’s Lions killers.
This is the kind of statistic that might strike real fear into the hearts of Lions fans. The loss to the Blues highlighted some significant deficiencies with the Lions’ attacking tactics and while they have only played together twice, the games ahead are not going to forgive them for not being Test ready.
What was always considered to be a monumentally difficult tour schedule on paper now, suddenly, appears to be more of a mission impossible.
Gary Brennan, Pundit Arena
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