x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

O'Connell breaks down the positives for the Lions

Paul O'Connell, the British and Irish Lions captain, claimed his side put in their best team performance of the tour so far in beating the Sharks.

Paul O'Connell, the British and Irish Lions captain, claimed his side put in their best team performance of the tour so far in beating the Sharks 39-3 tonight in Durban. Although the Lions were up only 7-3 at half-time, they racked up a big score with a strong performance in the second half and O'Connell believes the pieces are falling into place as the first Test approaches. "I think a lot of things came together," O'Connell said. "One of the biggest things is the defence, we've got four defensive systems trying to come together and play under one system and it came together well today. "They had a lot of the ball there at the end and everyone looked very comfortable defending together." O'Connell also believes the Lions have shown improvement at the breakdown, a key part of the game they must get right when the Test series begins against the physical South Africans. "The breakdown is the most important part of the game right now, no doubt about it, wherever you play, and I thought we made a big improvement today and I think we'll continue to improve." Although the Lions had only a narrow lead at the break, O'Connell believes the first-half performance was key in eventually breaking through against the Super 14 side. "We would have liked to have got more points from the pressure and the possession we had in the first half but were very patient and the points began to rack up," he said. "Pressure is very hard to defend against constantly and I think it paid off. The longer we stuck at it, the points did come. "We looked a lot more like a team than we have done in the last few weeks." The forwards coach Warren Gatland echoed those thoughts, insisting the coaching staff were happy with the team at half-time. "Any group of players can last for 40 minutes and the Sharks gave it everything in those first 40 minutes. We just said to stay patient and stick to the game plan and the pressure will tell." The only potential blot on the night came with key man Jamie Roberts being fitted for a shoulder brace but Gatland played down concerns about the injury. "I don't know anything more about that but I think it's just precautionary after a tumble, and the partnership (with Brian O'Driscoll) looked very good," he said. * PA Sport