LIONS TOUR 2017: 3RD TEST REVIEW
Who saw that coming?
The experts predicted a New Zealand series win, the romantics hoped for a British & Irish Lions win and… well nobody actually, predicted a series draw.
A pulsating Third and final Test in Auckland finished 15 points apiece bringing an end to the biggest and most talked about Lions Tour in its 129 year history.
The All Blacks began the game in dominant fashion; pulling the Lions from pillar to post, and but for some uncharacteristic handling errors, could have scored much earlier than they did.
A welcomed first foray into New Zealand territory for the Lions came to a sudden halt after Ngani Laumape intercepted Owen Farrell’s searching pass to sprint 70 metres in the opposite direction. But for some brilliant defensive work from Welsh pair Jonathan Davies and Liam Williams the home team would have celebrated their first try.
The All Blacks, though, didn’t have to wait much longer to score thanks to Beauden Barrett’s cross field kick which found his brother Jordie, who tapped possession back inside and Laumape finished off.
The Lions eventually found their feet and after converted penalties for both sides, went into half-time just six points behind.
Elliot Daly, renowned for a mighty left boot, kicked a penalty from 52 metres out shortly after the break and more good news for the Lions came 10 minutes later when Jerome Kaino was yellow carded for striking Alun Wyn Jones illegally in the tackle.
Both teams traded penalties before an All Blacks infringement provided Farrell with the opportunity to level the scores with just minutes remaining. A trademark run up and swing of the boot brought the scores level.
Now all the Lions had to do was bring the ball down from the restart and launch an attack to win the game and series. But this is rugby and nothing is that simple…
New Zealand captain Kieran Read applied the pressure to Williams in the air with the knockdown falling into the hands of replacement hooker, Ken Owens… the offside Ken Owens.
No, not like this....
Referee Romain Poite blew for a penalty but with this being such a critical decision and possibly with Sam Warburton in his ear, Poite double checked with the TMO. Barrett was lining up his series defining kick when the penalty was downgraded to an accidental offside and instead of having a shot at goal to win the game, it was a scrum instead.
Still there was time for New Zealand to launch one more onslaught at the Lions before the ball fell dead and the full-time whistle was blown.
The Lions had led the series for a grand total of just 3 minutes yet still came away with a sense of what might have been?
Five wins, two draws and three defeats, the British & Irish Lions will return home with their pride intact and an eye on South Africa in 2021.
Until next time…