Tana Umaga trips up Lions once again

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Auckland Blues players celebrate after defeating the British & Irish Lions 22-16 at Eden Park in Auckland, New Zealand, Wednesday, June 7, 2017.

Auckland Blues players celebrate after defeating the British & Irish Lions 22-16 at Eden Park in Auckland, New Zealand, Wednesday, June 7, 2017. (Photo: Brett Phibbs/New Zealand Herald via AP)

AUCKLAND, New Zealand (AP) — Tana Umaga once again proved to be a thorn in the side of British and Irish Lions teams when he coached the Auckland-based Blues to a 22-16 win at Eden Park on Wednesday.

Umaga was captain of the All Blacks team which beat the Lions 3-0 in their most-recent test series in New Zealand in 2005. He played a key part in the defining moment of that series when he and hooker Keven Mealamu tackled Lions captain Brian O'Driscoll in the first test, ruling him out of the remainder of the series.

On Wednesday, Umaga motivated a Blues team, in last place in the New Zealand Super Rugby conference, to victory over the Lions in the second match of their 10-match New Zealand tour.

Umaga made bold calls, naming youngster Stephen Perofeta to his Blues starting debut at flyhalf and ruling All Blacks center Sonny Bill Williams fit to make his return from a lengthy injury layoff.

Perofeta threw the long pass the created the Blues' first try to winger Reiko Ioane. Williams scored the Blues' second try and created the third.

Blues coach Tana Umaga and captain James Parsons celebrate in the dressing room after defeating the Lions 22-16. Photo / Photosport.nz
Blues coach Tana Umaga and captain James Parsons celebrate in the dressing room after defeating the Lions 22-16. Photo / Photosport.nz

"We got there in the end with some of our boys displaying their skills and expressing themselves as they do," Umaga said.

Umaga faced questions this week about his role in the tackle which put n O'Discoll out of the 2005 series within two minutes of the start of the first test. The issue has simmered over the intervening 12 years and has affected Umaga's subsequent career.

Umaga treated the issue diplomatically, if with a measure of resignation, when it arose at a media conference on Tuesday.

"Back then (2005) it was very special to be a part of the team to play against the British and Irish Lions," Umaga said. "We had success back then but that was back then."

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