Maybe it was just lack of preparation. Maybe it was the cavalry Warren Gatland had held in reserve for this, the best team outside the All Blacks the Lions will play.
Whatever it was, the growing crisis of the 2017 Tour of New Zealand was abated by a cohesive, determined and physical performance to beat the Crusaders in Christchurch.
The chief feather in the coaching cap has to go to Andy Farrell, the Lion’s defence man, whose scheme came together to shut down the most potent attacking team in Super Rugby to just three points – even with the loss of a key man in Jonathan Davies so early in the game.
Only once, when Jonny Sexton didn’t quite cover a neat step inside Owen Farrell by the Crus’ Jack Goodhue, did the previously unbeaten team make a telling line break by their own design.
The Lions rode their luck a little at times, but truth was they left three stick-on tries on the deck themselves, and should have won far more comfortably than they did.
There were key additions in Conor Murray at scrum-half and both Peter O’Mahony and Sean O’Brien in the back row. Even those who had toiled in the opening two games –Sexton specifically – looked much more at home.
The only issue is the continuing lack of a cutting edge. Ben Te’o has played himself into a starting test place with his carrying and defence, but he does not create for the men outside him, and George North was left chasing kicks.
It’s a work in progress though. Stuart Hogg, unfortunately, may be out of the first test after taking an accidental elbow in the eye from Murray, as he may be struggling for the Maori dress rehearsal game next week.
Gatland maybe thinks he can win the tests with 12-man rugby, defence and penalties and this win was some evidence he could be right. However one suspects Steve Hansen has other ideas.