Such a tactic appeared to reach a peak in the victory over the Maori All Blacks in which referee Jaco Peyper repeatedly warned the Maori captain, Ash Dixon, about defenders impeding the chasing Lions players, which ultimately led to the home side being penalised in the second half.
Having called on his own players to produce a better performance when competing for the ball aerially, Gatland was left annoyed by the tactics being deployed against his side, though both Anthony Watson and Leigh Halfpenny were effective in securing high kicks or disrupting Maori possession.
“The frustrating thing for us is the amount of blocking that’s going on,” Gatland said in Hamilton on Sunday, ahead of the final warm-up match with the Chiefs before the first Test next Saturday. “The off-the-ball stuff, it makes it difficult to complete attacking opportunities and situations because there is so much happening off the ball in terms of holding players or subtly holding players. We’ve raised it with the ref already.
“When you go back and look at the tapes and look at all the stuff off the ball, where someone’s run a line or stopped someone getting through, some of it is very subtle. That’s made it difficult. It’s part of the game in New Zealand, all New Zealand teams at the moment are doing it.
“A few years ago people weren’t quite so subtle. They’re very, very subtle now.
British and Irish Lions player ratings vs Maori All Blacks
“We’ll keep raising it. Because it was picked up on a couple of occasions last night they stopped doing it as much. That made it a lot easier for us to get up in the air and to compete.”
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