• Warren Gatland's leg-lagged side beat New Zealand Provincial Barbarians 13-7 in Whangarei.
  • Anthony Watson's second half try spares the tourists' blushes at the Toll Stadium.

The British and Irish Lions begun preparations for the three-match Test series against New Zealand with a poor display on the way to claiming victory over the Provincial Barbarians.

Warren Gatland's side trailed at the break but thanks to Anthony Watson's second half try edged to a 13-7 win which gives them a winning start in the first of 10 matches on the shores of the world champions.

Following the domestic Premiership and Pro12 finals last weekend, Gatland's squad only arrived in New Zealand on Wednesday [31 May] and the rigours of an uncertain build-up were there for all to see.

An opposition XV drawn from Super Rugby, which included Gatland's son Bryn, matched the Lions for intensity in the opening 40 minutes and came close to staging an upset.

Though Johnny Sexton registered the first points of the tour with a penalty, the opening try came from the hosts as Sam Anderson-Heather bundled his way through. Scotland's Greig Laidlaw reduced the arrears with a penalty before Watson beat two tackles to go over in the corner, with Owen Farrell converting.

Anthony Watson
Watson crashed over to give the Lions a winning start in New Zealand. Getty Images

Replacement Farrell underlined the poor display by missing a late penalty but the Lions clung on to begin their five-week schedule on a wining note. However, bigger challenges are on the horizon ahead of taking on the All Blacks, starting on Wednesday [7 June] against the Blues at Eden Park, scene of the first test against Steve Hansen's men in three weeks.

"We know we've got to sharpen up, but there are some positives there for us to work on," said the Lions coach," said coach Gatland, who led the Lions to a series victory in Australia in 2013. "We got held up over the line four times and created some chances. It's one of those games where if we had got two or three tries we might have got away. It was a tough game. It was definitely a good hit-out for us."

Captain Sam Warburton added: "One out of one. I am pretty pleased with that. At least we now have some footage to work on defence and attack. We kept letting them back in the game with penalties, giving them easy outs. Every time we play it is a dress rehearsal for the Test match, the fans here wanted to see a spectacle but we want to focus on that."

British and Irish Lions fixtures [8:35am BST kick-off time unless otherwise stated]

Wednesday 7 June – Blues – Eden Park, Auckland

Saturday 10 June – Crusaders – AMI Stadium, Christchurch

Tuesday 13 June – Highlanders – Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin

Saturday 17 June – New Zealand Maori – International Stadium, Rotorua

Tuesday 20 June – Chiefs– Waikato Stadium, Hamilton

Saturday 24 June – New Zealand– First Test, Eden Park, Auckland

Tuesday 27 June – Hurricanes – Westpac Stadium, Wellington

Saturday 1 July – New Zealand – Second Test, Westpac Stadium, Wellington

Saturday 8 July – New Zealand – Third Test, Eden Park, Auckland