New Zealand vs rugby’s most prominent touring side. The Lions! Lions fans, have been waiting 4 years for a new first test whereas Kiwi fans have been waiting 12 of the big ones for the Lions to come to town. Both teams were star studded and both sets of fans up for it which made Eden Park sound like a concert in full swing. It was set to be a blinder and all rugby fans were gearing up for the occasion…!
The event standards were set high and even the haka (post the roars of ‘God Save New Zealand’ of course) was very impressive. The cries of ‘Kapa o pango’ were greeted with the same old cheers and jeers.
The stage was set and the almost instantaneously the Lions set the bar high. Owen Farrell times his pass to perfection and suddenly Jonathan Davies found himself in acres of greenery. He tied in Ben Smith and passed to Conor Murray but the scrum half was hauled down in the nick of time. Owen Farrell’s work rate was marvellous and he followed up to find yet another great pass this time from the base to Elliot Daly. The Wasps was clutched by Israel Dagg but spun out of the challenge and made it over by the touchline! Jaco Peyper called for the TMO and it looked all good as he kept himself away from one line but failed to plant it over the one that mattered! No try this time and that was thanks to the last ditch defence of Dagg!
New Zealand survived once and they then managed to turn the game around with a Beauden Barrett penalty. It was looked at as their biggest weakness but the World Player of the Year 2016 proved all of the pundits wrong with his first shot.
Despite a superb start, the Lions took a tumble and it was rather inevitable. The All Blacks a double consecutive world champions for a reason and they proved their skill and ruthlessness with a classy try. Aaron Smith quick tapped a penalty and as the ball flew through the hands, a two on one was created; Elliot Daly vs Israel Dagg and Codie Taylor. Dagg was the ball carrier and he flung a pass out after drawing Daly. It was very inaccurate and to the toes of Taylor but the hooker produced a marvellous catch off his bootstraps and he dived in! The Lions had been stretched to their limits and could not cope.
Beauden Barrett kept his 100% kick success right before Owen Farrell banged over his first attempt and both fly halves were of to a good start from the boot.
Barrett would not stop though and a few minutes later notched his third kick of the match to give the All Blacks a 13-3 lead. Until the big guns came out…
Aaron Cruden was on for the injured Ben Smith and it was Chiefs who launched a kick into the 22. Liam Williams secured the bouncing ball and set off. The Welshman was targeted by Kieran Read but got himself out of a rather sticky situation with a majestic step in fact, Kieran Read yelled in anger as Williams got past him! He hit a nice outside arc and used a very strong fend on Cruden and the Lions fans were up on their feet. He used his gas to get up to halfway and just before he hit the deck, he offloaded to Jonathan Davies. His fellow Welsh partner sprinted a further 10 metres until he fed the pass out to Elliot Daly. Daly used his agile feet to dance past Anton Lienert-Brown. Lienert Brown did well to track back and take out Daly’s ankles. However, the impact was not enough to stop the Englishman from offloading back to Jonathan Davies! It was relentless and Davies weaved in and out of Beauden Barrett and as he made it to the 5 metre line Barrett grasped hold of his shirt. But there was no stopping this phase and the ball found Sean O’Brien who had the simple task of forcing the ball down over the line!!! WHAT A TRY!!! It was perhaps the best try ever scored in a Lions jersey! And it was against the All Blacks! WOW!
HALF TIME NEW ZEALAND 13 – 8 BRITISH AND IRISH LIONS
Just 1 minute into the second half, Sonny Bill Williams met Ben Te’o! Sonny Bill ran down Ben Te’o channel and with one step into it, Ben Te’o turned SBW into atoms and obliterated him. The referee deemed it illegal but in my opinion, it was a fantastic tackle with so much force Williams’ legs lifted. The game was beginning to really heat up.
The Lions had just scored a fantastic try but New Zealand responded with a good one themselves. A strong scrum platform turned into a complete shambles and Conor Murray managed to dig a boot in. Nonetheless, Kieran Read produced a majestic offload as he scooped up the ball and released it into Aaron Smith hands with ease! Smith made a run and then passed to Israel Dagg who was running from deep. Dagg covered a few metres then popped a pass over the top to Cruden and with pace he flicked a wide pass out to Rieko Ioane. Ioane has already got one try against the Lions for the Blues and he used his acceleration to speed pass Ben Te’o and Liam Williams to dive over in the corner. Just like the Lions disallowed try, Jaco Peyper used TMO but their was no knock on so the try was fairly given. Beauden Barrett converted and notched a penalty.
Johnny Sexton had come on and as he had done in most games this tour, made a howler of a mistake. He attempted to put Owen Farrell through a gap but gave an awful pass which nobody could catch and the All Blacks claimed the loose ball. TJ Perenara box kicked away and as Rieko Ioane followed up with the chase, Liam Williams spilt the high ball which Ioane duly scooped up. He again used his gas to make Elliot Daly look slow and skin him down the left hand side. Daly dived but missed, Watson tracked back but nobody was stopping the Blues and New Zealand winger! Barrett converted and the game was gone for the tourists.
The Lions did get some consolation when Rhys Webb crossed after putting Jonathan Davies through a gap and following it up with a pick and go which he got over the whitewash with. Owen Farrell converted the tough conversion but it wasn’t enough. The Lions went down to the All Blacks in Auckland.
FULL TIME NEW ZEALAND 30 – 15 BRITISH AND IRISH LIONS