It ends up being a draw and both teams will wonder what could have been. However, this was an incredible achievement for the Lions. If you look at it this way; the Lions squad have only been together for just over one month in the last 4 years and still managed to draw a series against the All Blacks on their own turf! When you take that into perspective, it’s an amazing achievement. How many sides get to beat the All Blacks in any other competition, let alone beat them and draw against them in two consecutive weeks? No one gave the Lions a chance of winning even one test so all in all, it’s a brilliant result!
The final game of the series was thrilling from start to finish, it had everything you’d expect from a series decider. Well, there were two things that would have made it better; a try or two from the Lions and of course, a win for the tourists!
The game started with ferocious tempo from the home side and they had the upper hand for most of the first half. Beauden Barrett continued his fine form to lead the team and guide them forward. The hosts scored two lovely tries, one after 15 minutes and the second at 37 minutes. It looked like the Lions were going to have a long day at the office but they kept daylight away from the scoreboard by getting to half time with a 12-6 score line in favour of the All Blacks.
The second half started better for the Lions and they started to show real intent, they began to pull off some really slick offloads and put good phases together. The All Blacks continued to threaten us constantly and after it looked like the Lions might get in for a try, an intercept was taken by the All Blacks who almost ran in a try from within their 22. However, Antony Watson with some help from his team mates managed to scramble back and turn over the ball. It was a pivotal moment in the game as it looked like a certain score and would have been a huge blow for the Lions.
The Lions scored three penalties in the second half and the All Blacks only managed to score one for themselves.
There was some controversy at the end of the match. Owen Farrell had just kicked 3 points to level the match 15 all. It’s worth pointing out that there were some who thought that Farrell should have kicked for the corner to try and win the match with a try, but the penalty in my opinion was the right choice. However, after the subsequent restart was taken after the final penalty, a Lions player was deemed offside when the ball was collected by Liam Williams. This initially looked like it should have given the All Blacks a potential match winning penalty but after TMO review, the ref called a scrum to the All Blacks for an accidental knock on because Kieran Reid tackled Williams in the air which resulted in a knock on from the Lions.
The Lions turned over the scrum and Rhys Webb sprinted away with support for what looked like a potential match winning try. However, he struggled to hold on to the ball and knocked on. Another scrum for the All Blacks. This time the home side won the scrum and started upfield towards the try line. After a few phases, the All Blacks got themselves out wide to try and power their way over the line. The Lions however showed huge heart and power to push them back and eventually bundle the ball carrier into touch.
Romain Poite blew the final whistle and that was that. The Lions had drawn the series against the All Blacks. There was a deflated response from the 48,609 supporters in the stands as neither side celebrated. This feeling continued on for a while as the Lions and All Blacks players sauntered around the pitch to thank their fans. But after about 10 minutes, you could feel that their incredible achievement started to sink in. The players and supporters changed their tune and began cheering and accepting the overall great result that they got from the tour.
Personally, I lept up out of my seat at full time and cheered like we had won! I thought it was a brilliant result given that we almost got a kickable penalty against us at the death. After been written off all the way through the series, it was brilliant to see the Lions come away from it undefeated. Also, it’s great to finally see that the All Blacks are human after all!
They can hold their heads high and there should be a great welcome home waiting for the proud pride of Lions!