British & Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland was bullish about his side’s chances in New Zealand in spite of a below par 13-7 win over the NZ Provincial Barbarians in the tour opener in Whangarei on Saturday.
Gatland said it had been a very tough match which he appreciated because it showed the players how hard it was to come to New Zealand and play against teams motivated to do well against them.
“Tonight was tough. We created a number of opportunities but we just need to be more clinical in finishing that. I think we got held up over the line about four times. If we were more clinical and finished those opportunities then the game is more comfortable,” he said.
But he felt it was unfair to talk about players’ performances in depth because many of them were still trying to get into regular sleep patterns after their late arrival. They knew that was always going to be the case and the most important thing for the side had been getting the result and the tour off to a good start.
“We can go away knowing that there are a number of things for us to work on and some positives out there from the chances and opportunities that we did create and know we have to be better at finishing those,” he said.
They knew what lay ahead of them in future games but the performance would hold them in good stead.
“There’s things for us to work on but we will improve from tonight’s performance, definitely,” he said.
Captain Sam Warburton said the decision to go for scrums rather than shots at goal from penalties late in the first half was down to them feeling the score wasn’t reflecting the field position they had enjoyed and they wanted to try for tries.
Earlier, in the half there had been boos from the crowd when they opted to take shots for goal rather than the lineout plays the Barbarians took when they had penalties.
But Warburton said while everyone liked to see tries, the situation for the Lions was that every match was a dress rehearsal for the Test series and they had to consider their options on every occasion.