- Blindside flanker relieved to escape Suncorp with tight victory
- Croft praises Israel Folau and “exceptional” George North
Tom Croft is expecting an even tougher challenge from “all guns blazing” Australia in the second Test in Melbourne after the somewhat fortuitous nature of the British and Irish Lions’ series-opening victory.
The first Test in Brisbane was lit up by stunning tries from Israel Folau, George North and Alex Cuthbert, but the Lions only find themselves one-nil up in the series after Kurtley Beale squandered two late chances to overhaul the visitors’ 23-21 lead.
And, acknowledging that his side were not as fluent or cohesive as they would have liked, Croft insisted that Warren Gatland’s men would improve ahead of this weekend’s showdown in Melbourne.
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“I thought we played some decent rugby throughout the game, but we did make mistakes and didn’t play the best rugby we can,” he said.
“Still, to get the first Test win is massive and hopefully we can push on to and improve.
“We didn’t play our best rugby so there’s a lot more to come from us. There were areas when we weren’t as clinical as we should have been, but that’s an easy thing we can fix up in training to make sure we’re sharp and fresh and ready to fire into Saturday.”
Lauded for some free-running performances in the warm-up matches on this tour – not least his try-scoring display during the comprehensive victory over the Waratahs – Croft did not quite find as much success in the loose on Saturday, his main contribution coming with a burst off the shoulder of Alex Corbisiero on the stroke of half-time.
That said, the 27 year-old Leicester Tiger was content with his showing in a dogged team effort – but warned that the Wallabies would come back stronger.
“If I get to play again next week, hopefully I’ll get a few more chances to get my hands on the ball in open spaces. In terms of the team performance, though, we dug in. There was a lot of retreating, a lot of kick chase and a lot of big tackles being made.
“Full credit to the boys – we know what to expect from Australia next week. They’ll come out all guns blazing.
Photo: Getty Images
“It’s nice to have the first win in the bank but in Melbourne it’s all or nothing for the Aussies now. They’ll really try to take the game to us.
“We’ve got to be aware of that and do our homework, especially as we were going into the first Test a little bit blind, given what teams had played previously.”
Finishing with a glance at the phenomenal tries that illuminated the contest, Croft paid tribute to both Israel Folau and George North, who each showcased their considerable attacking talents.
“Obviously their big wing Folau was very good and scored two decent tries – he’s another danger that we need to take out of the game.
“For a 21 year old, though, George is absolutely exceptional. I think he’s going to be one of those faces that become synonymous with the Lions because he’s unbelievable. You can’t praise him enough.”