NEW ZEALAND 15 – 15 BRITISH & IRISH LIONS
Saturday morning saw the Third and Final Test match on the British and Irish Lions Tour for 2017 – with a thrilling 15-15 all draw at Eden Park in Auckland. The drawn series was the first to happen on a Lions Tour in 62 years and have the Welsh connection of Warren Gatland and Sam Warburton, as the only Head Coach and Captain pairing to remain undefeated in back to back Lions Tour in their sides 129-year history.
Following a disastrous opening Test loss in Auckland a fortnight ago, it saw a good response to draw the series level last week, after New Zealander Sonny Bill Williams was sent off and helped the Lions out a bit with the Tourists fending off the hosts to make the series all square going into this series-decider.
The visitors found themselves deep inside the All Blacks half were pushing for a try with great field position and pinning the Kiwis near their own try line, but when Owen Farrell saw his intended pass out wide intercepted by Beauden Barritt – it saw Jonathan Davies and Liam Williams getting back to keep the hosts out.
Moments later saw New Zealand breaking the deadlock in the 15th minute of the game when the Barrett brothers linked up to set up a try for Ngani Laumape right in the corner. It came from a Beauden Barrett cross-field kick towards brother Jordie and he was able to palm it backwards towards Laumape and have put the All Blacks in front. Beauden kicked the extras and put the home side 7-0 ahead with the hosts on top.
Owen Farrell who wasn’t having one of his best games in the Red shirt of the Lions, then saw the England man slotting a penalty over to make it 7-3 and have the visitors on the board. Farrell then kicked over another penalty after 33 minutes gone for the Lions, before Jordie Barrett strolled over the try-line after some good play by the All Blacks forwards – saw the home side increasing their lead to 12-6 before the half time break.
Elliott Daly then converted on a monster kick for the British and Irish Lions at the start of the second half, with Daly kicking over a 52-metre long penalty and saw the deficit cut to three points at 12-9. That kick seemed to galvanise the fans wearing the Red of the visitors at Eden Park and boost the Lions going forward in the match.
New Zealand then found themselves down to 14-men again after Jerome Kaino was adjudged of foul play after catching Lions Alun Wyn Jones in the face with an arm, however, the result was a trip to the sin bin after being shown the yellow card from match referee Poite. Farrell saw his third penalty kick tying the game up at 12-12 with 20 minutes of the game left to play and saw the contest on a knife edge still.
With just over 12 minutes left to play it then saw the home side awarded a penalty following a collapsing scrum involving Kyle Sinckler – and Barritt successfully kicked over for an easy score to make it 15-12 and looked like that could possibly be the winning points. The Lions knew they would have one more chance in the game and when they were awarded a penalty three minutes from time it saw Farrell making it four from four with the boot, as he drew the scores level late on.
There was still time though for more drama in this pulsating series- finale, as from the restart New Zealand were awarded a penalty kick and that was subsequently changed after checking with the TMO. All Blacks captain Kieran Read was clearly not happy and insisted that the match official had the rules wrong and tried to correct him, but French official Roman Poite stood by his decision of an ‘accidental offside’ involving the Lions man in the incident and a scrum was awarded instead.
As the match ticked over the 80-minute mark, it saw the Lions defence being massively tested late on as the home side looked to steal the win at the death and the series too, but credit to the visitors they refused to buckle and saw the game out in the end. It saw honours even on two fronts, firstly the test match that was superb through came to an end and was 15-15 while the series too was tied, as the sides could not be separated over three matches.
Both captains were left feeling the same after the contest, as the All Black captain Kieran Read was clearly unimpressed with the change of decision late on by the official, as otherwise, it would have been a kickable penalty for the hosts to win the match from. From the British and Irish Lions point of view, it had captain Sam Warburton left speechless and a tinged with disappointment too with a drawn match.
With questions being asked about the long-term future of the British and Irish Lions tours moving forward as Rugby bosses in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres discussing plans, it was also announced that future Lions tour will be shortened from 10 matches to 8 starting from the 2021 tour of South Africa – but the past two tours have shown that these mean a lot to the Southern hemisphere as well as the Northern hemisphere too.