By Jordan Trott
- Lions tie up the series 1-1
- Sonny Bill Williams was sent off red for dangerous play.
- Owen Farrell nails dramatic 78th minute penalty.
WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND – The Lions beat the All Blacks 24-21, to send the series to a decider.
The British & Irish Lions overcame a nine-point deficit to beat New Zealand in stunning fashion. Warren Gatland’s men held the All Blacks try-less, as Taulupe Faletau and Conor Murray scored tries for the Lions. A Sonny Bill Williams red card did mar the second test, as the centre was sent off for a shoulder charge on winger Anthony Watson.
Owen Farrell slotted 14 points for the Lions, as Marko Vunipola was sin-binned after an accumulation of penalties from Gatland’s men. Beauden Barrett struggled from the tee, despite kicking all 21 points for the All Blacks. The 26 year-old missed three kickable shots at goal, whilst he also couldn’t influence the game in his usual fashion.
Scrappy first half
The wet conditions caused both sides problems, as handling errors were an issue for both throughout the match. The Lions started the better, as they tried to impose themselves physically, but didn’t pose much of a threat in the early goings.
Barrett had the chance to open the scoring for the All Blacks, after Lions flanker Sean O’Brien was penalised for playing the ball off his feet. The reigning World Rugby Player of the Year, Barrett, fluffed his lines and struck the post from the resulting penalty
Maro Itoje was brought in to the starting XV to be disruptive and he did just that, causing chaos in the mauls. The scrum, however, was once again an issue, as the Lions conceded another penalty at the set-piece – a recurring pattern throughout the tour. With 20 minutes on the clock, Barrett stepped up and slotted the penalty, to put the first score on the board.
New Zealand also allowed ill-discipline to creep into their game, as Brodie Retallick was needlessly caught offside, from an Aaron Smith box kick. Farrell stepped up nailed a superb penalty from roughly 48m out and 15m in from the touchline in treacherous conditions.
Anthony Watson then received the ball in his own half and was pole-axed by Sonny Bill Williams. The 31-year old inside centre lead with his shoulder, which is a clear red under the new directives. Referee, Jerome Garces, missed it at first before TMO then intervened to aid the Frenchman.
Watson would leave the match for a Head Injury Assessment as a result, before returning. Debutant Ngani Laumape came on to fill the void left in the centre by the dismissed Williams. Jerome Kaino was sacrificed for Laumape, with outside centre Aaron Leinert-Brown used as an emergency flanker at the scrum.
The first half wound down with more ill-discipline from both sides; as Barrett and Farrell shared six-points apiece to send both sides into the half 9-9.
Lions lose discipline
The All Blacks came out for the second half looking like they were going to repeat last week’s impressive second half performance. Itoje was penalised for offside, and Barrett pushed a relatively straightforward kick wide. Laumape made an impact, causing havoc in the tackle and with is direct running. The 24 year-old picked up where he left off in the mid-week game, where he starred for the Hurricanes.
Murray was then pinged for a high-tackle, another unnecessary penalty from the Lions, which this time Barrett slotted with no mistake.
The All Blacks were finding chinks in the Lions defence as Israel Dagg impressed. Barrett, knowing he had a penalty advantage, played a testing grubber that Elliot Daly had to deal with before the play was called. Barrett knocked over the three to make it 15-9.
A yellow card was coming for the Lions, after conceding yet another penalty at the breakdown. Marko Vunipola cleaned out Barrett illegally and then the sides were evened up, 14 players apiece. Captain Sam Warburton was then the latest Lion to be reprimanded, as the night seemed to be taking a disastrous turn for Gatland’s men. Barrett extended the lead to 18-9, the largest lead of the night.
Lions roar back
Anthony Watson made a superb break into the New Zealand 22, which was efficiently recycled by the Lions. The ball was spread way by to Liam Williams who put in Faletau to go one-on-one with Dagg. Faletau finished like a world class winger, as he bumped off the 29 year-old full back and crashed over the try line. Farrell butchered the conversion but the Lions were within four points.
The Lions had clawed themselves back into it, before Daly looked to have made a match-deciding mistake, as his kick from within his own 22 went dead. The kick would give the All Blacks a scrum all the way back in the Lions 22. Another set-piece penalty gave Steve Hansen’s men a seven-point lead – via the boot of Barrett.
A charge from hooker, Jamie George, broke the All Blacks defensive line and from the ensuing ruck, Murray caught the All Blacks napping. A subtle block from Jonathan Sexton allowed his Irish teammate to race away and crash over. Farrell added the extras and the game was all tied up.
The game was set-up for a nail biting end and the Lions were buoyed by uncharacteristic mistakes by the All Blacks. Replacement tighthead prop Kyle Sinckler was then taken out in the air, to set up Farrell for a penalty, with just two minutes remaining.
Last-week’s standout performer, Reiko Ioane fluffed his lines, when he looked like he might have space and despite a solid effort form Ardie Savea, Farrell’s kick proved to be the match winner.
The All Blacks home unbeaten streak was snapped at 47 games but head into the series finale, still unbeaten at Eden Park since 1994. The series finale takes place next Saturday, as the Lions look for the first series win in New Zealand in 46 years.
Lions: Liam Williams; Anthony Watson, Jonathan Davies, Owen Farrell, Elliot Daly; Johnny Sexton, Conor Murray; Mako Vunipola, Jamie George, Tadhg Furlong, Maro Itoje, Alun Wyn Jones, Sam Warburton (capt), Taulupe Faletau, Sean O’Brien.
Replacements: Ken Owens, Jack McGrath, Kyle Sinckler, Courtney Lawes, CJ Stander, Rhys Webb, Ben Te’o, Jack Nowell.
All Blacks: Israel Dagg; Waisake Naholo, Anton Lienert-Brown, Sonny Bill Williams, Rieko Ioane; Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith; Joe Moody, Codie Taylor, Owen Franks; Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock; Jerome Kaino, Sam Cane, Kieran Read (capt).
Replacements: Nathan Harris, Wyatt Crockett, Charlie Faumuina, Scott Barrett, Ardie Savea, TJ Perenara, Aaron Cruden, Ngani Laumape.
The deciding test between the New Zealand All Blacks and the British & Irish Lions is on Saturday 8 July.
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