Rugby Union: Saracens lock Maro Itoje features for British & Irish Lions in defeat to Blues
PUBLISHED: 13:30 07 June 2017
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Lions suffered first defeat of tour to New Zealand against Super Rugby franchise
Saracens lock Maro Itoje was unable to prevent the British & Irish Lions from slipping to a first defeat on their tour to New Zealand on Wednesday.
After just scraping past the Provincial Barbarians on Saturday, the Lions travelled to Auckland to face Super Rugby side the Blues.
Itoje became the 825th player to don the Lions jersey when taking his place in the second row alongside fellow England international Courtney Lawes.
The tourists got off to a disastrous start, conceding a try to All Blacks international Rieko Ioane in just the sixth minute.
However, the Lions hit back with a try of their own through Munster’s CJ Stander, which was converted by Leigh Halfpenny, with the Toulon man later adding a penalty.
On the stroke of half time, though, Sonny Bill Williams crossed for a converted scored to send the Blues into the break 12-10 up.
The second half saw the introduction of soon-to-be Saracens back Liam Williams after an Ihaia West penalty for the hosts, but the Welshman was sent to the sin bin shortly after coming on.
The Lions did not falter in his absence, with another Halfpenny penalty making it a one-point game before kicking the visitors into the lead once Williams returned.
With just seven minutes remaining, though, West crossed for a try which he later converted to send the Lions crashing to a defeat.
On Saturday, the Saracens quartet of Mako Vunipola, Owen Farrell, George Kruis and Jamie George all came off the bench against the Provinicial Barbarians, with the latter two making their debuts for the representative team.
The Lions eventually edged their way to a 13-7 victory, with Farrell converting Anthony Watson’s second-half try for the visitors.
Next up for the Lions are another Super Rugby franchise in the Crusaders on Saturday, when Farrell is expected to start at fly half.
Also on Saturday, England tackle Argentina in the first game of a two Test series, with three Saracens players pushing for selection.
Nick Isiekwe and Nathan Earle both score for England against the historic Barbarians last month and will hope that counts in their favour, while Alex Lozowski has recovered from a shoulder injury sustained in that game.