Farrell shows class in Lions' win over Crusaders
CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand (AP) — England flyhalf Owen Farrell has provided a selection conundrum for British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland with his versatile display on Saturday in the tourists' 12-3 win over the Christchurch-based Crusaders.
Farrell scored all of the Lions' points from penalties, landing three goals in the first half and one for the only points of the second. His fifth attempt was flagged away but was shown by TV replays to have been successful.
The Saracens pivot played his part in the Lions' outstanding defensive performance which denied a try to the Crusaders who had been averaging five tries per game this season on their way to a club-record run of 14 consecutive wins.
Farrell's tactical kicking was sound and he distributed the ball well to the tourists' powerful ball carriers. But Farrell also gave Gatland cause for thought by the way he slotted in elsewhere in the backline when the Lions lost Wales center Jonathan Davies to a head knock in the first half.
Farrell started the match in a halfback combination with Ireland's Conor Murray which seemed the likely combination the Lions will take into the test series against New Zealand, starting June 24. But he later yielded the flyhalf role to Jonathan Sexton when the Irishman took the field as a replacement after the loss of Davies and fullback Stuart Hogg.
Farrell still kept some of the duties of first receiver, sharing those with Sexton and giving Gatland a preview of another possible test backline alignment — with the Irish pair of Murray and Sexton maintaining their established combination and Farrell taking a role in midfield.
Gatland also has to find ways to accommodate Ireland's Robbie Henshaw or England's Ben Te'o in midfield but Farrell showed he has a wide range of options.
"It was great to get a win tonight," Farrell said. "We had a great feeling out there. We really wanted to attack in everything we did and I thought that showed for the full 80 minutes."
Farrell said the Lions were able to put the Crusaders under pressure with the accuracy of their kicking game, their strong chase and the reliability of their lineout.
"We've got some good wingers who can get after the ball and tonight, even though it was dry, it was greasy so to play in the right part of the field was crucial," he said.
"I thought in defense we were aggressive. We really got off the line no matter where we were on the field, so I think it's a step in the right direction for us."