All Blacks 21, Lions 24.
1 all!! That’ll do nicely. After 18 previous wins in a row at Wellington, the All Blacks fall to defeat. What a final test we have in store at Eden Park next weekend!
The script was torn up for this game and it had some good, bad and ugly moments. We saw a red card for Sonny Bill Williams in the first half, and the Lions coughed up over a dozen penalties (13 in total, 10 kickable). Barrett was on target for 7 of those kicks which made for frustrating viewing as we kept getting penalised in our own half.
It was a tight encounter for the first 40 with all of the points coming from the boot of Barrett for the All Blacks and Owen Farrell for the Lions. However, when the second half took off, a little bit of daylight slowly crept in on the scoreboard with a 18,9 lead for the home side going into the final quarter. It was obvious at that point, especially when we got to the 60 minute mark that the penalty count was killing the Lions and only some smart rugby would get us back into the game. And so it happened, some very clinical passages of play ensued in the Lions favour, leading to a fantastic try by Faletau and another from Murray a few minutes later. At that stage, we got back to an even score of 21 all with 5 minutes to go. Thankfully, the penalty count started to mount for the All Blacks and we finally got reward for intense pressure with a kickable penalty! Farrell was accurate and we took a 3 point lead. The All Blacks showed huge endeavour to try and muster a score in the last minute but the Lions held firm to close out the match with a famous and hard fought win at Wellington.
Conor Murray, Owen Farrell, Maro Itoje, Sexton and Sean O’Brien were the standout performers and showed great leadership throughout. Mako Vunipola had a performance that he will want to forget, he conceded 4 penalties and eventually saw a yellow card. He has been solid in all previous outings for the Lions but today was certainly not his day. His place could be threatened for next week, and we could very likely see Jack McGrath starting in his place for the final test.
The Lions have a huge task on their hands for next weekend’s final test. The task at hand for the Lions should not be focused on their opponents, it’s themselves that they need to focus on. The discipline shown by the Lions was nothing less than shocking. The red card was our saving grace in some ways as you would have to imagine that if a red card had not been shown to Sonny Bill, the All Blacks would have capitalised more on the 13 penalty count. But, it is what it is and I feel that the Lions will finally rectify this weakness for next week.
Sean O’Brien felt happy after the match but understands that there’s work to be done:
“We’re delighted to win and the crowd have been unbelievable here. We made our life very hard for ourselves, but we worked incredibly hard for one another out there and we really fronted up there.” “We had a cool head and we knew our plan. We stuck to the plan, bar discipline, and it worked out for us.”
Warren Gatland had this to say after the match:
“It’s great that we have tied the series and we go to Auckland with everything to play for. I thought even with the red-card that we were the better team and deserved to win – we played some good rugby. We gave away some silly penalties which was disappointing but the better team won tonight.
“I thought the last ten minutes when the guys came off their line and stopped the All Blacks momentum was key. I am very happy with the boys and proud that we have won.”
“Some of our kicking was not good so we have a lot to work on in the week. We saw what happened in Chicago and then a couple of weeks later in Dublin so we know what to expect next week.
“The key for next week is to build on the good things from tonight. There were lots of positives – last week we spoke about the collision dominance which they had but I thought tonight there was a big improvement.”
I think the 10 and 12 partnership of Sexton and Farrell is a joy to watch, they link up so well and look very comfortable together. I think we’ll see this partnership again next week with Ben Te’o on the bench. There were some defensive frailties at 12 due to Farrell being targeted constantly throughout the match. However, he held his composure and never looked rattled. He is a great leader for this Lions team and will be a key figure for them in the final test.
Eden Park, Auckland. This is the venue for the final test, the place where the All Blacks haven’t been defeated in their last 36 games there!! It’s going to be an exciting week and it’s guaranteed to be an excellent final showdown between the two sides who desperately want to win!
Stay tuned for our pre and post match reports!