Taranaki expect to challenge Lions

Getting their hands on the ball will be crucial for Taranaki if they are to challenge the British & Irish Lions, according to veteran prop Gordon Slater. [more]

Lions Australia Tour 2013

Getting their hands on the ball will be crucial for Taranaki if they are to challenge the British & Irish Lions, according to veteran prop Gordon Slater.

As Bay of Plenty discovered in their 34-20 defeat on Saturday, when they got some quality possession they were able to find gaps in the Lions defence and punish them.

After being swept away by a tide of red in the opening 15 minutes, when the tourists scored three unanswered tries, the Steamers clawed their way back from 17-0 down to be level with the Lions at half-time thanks to tries from Colin Bourke and Murray Williams.

They then kept up the pressure until the final quarter when the tourists were eventually able to pull away.

While the Bay’s efforts may have been a wake-up call for the Lions, they have also provided the other New Zealand provinces with some hope, starting with Taranaki.

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Slater said: "They’ve shown us how to play, but the Lions also started very well and finished very well and they’ve got a lot of experience there. There were a few things that we got out of the game.

"We’ve just got to get out there and get our hands on the ball and actually play some rugby and not get too overawed by the occasion.

"We’ve got a game plan sorted out and [coach] Kieran [Crowley] has worked hard on that and tried to put it in place this week. We know what we want to do. We’ve just got to get our hands on the ball.

"Set piece is still a crucial part of the game and to get it right for your own ball is very important so we’ve made sure that we’ve got that area covered too."

Slater, 33, played the Lions back in 1993 when the game was still amateur and believes the players will get more out of this encounter.

"When it was here in 1993 everyone was excited about it and got in behind it. This one, now it’s in the professional era, there is a lot more riding on it," he continued.

"The way the English and the Welsh teams have been going everyone wants to measure themselves against the northern hemisphere to see where they are at."

With only hazy memories of propping against England stalwart Jason Leonard in his last outing against the Lions, which Taranaki lost 49-25, Slater was asked what he wanted to take away from Wednesday’s game.

"Victory of course," he added. "I just hope that we perform well and put on a good performance and play to our abilities."

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