The hooter rang and Conor Murray kicked the game dead to level the series and setup a fascinating series final back in Auckland next weekend. 24-21. Lions win against a fourteen man New Zealand. Hawkeye Sidekick reflects on the game.
Sonny Bill Williams
The pivotal moment of this second test. A shoulder charge on Anthony Watson in the twenty-five minutes looked horrible on the replay and the red card was merited. However, the delay in issuing the red card bordered on the ridiculous. Garces’ conviction to issue the red after the replays was admirable. It was a poor attempt to tackle and SBW can have zero complaints. The first New Zealander to be sent off on home soil, only the third in all time. New Zealand battled gamely but the final quarter was too much and the British & Irish Lions took full advantage.
Penalty Guzzling Central
Thirteen penalties conceded and still the British & Irish Lions won the test match. It was a horrendously ill-disciplined performance as New Zealand kept in touch in this contest with several soft penalties. Beauden Barrett’s miscued performance from the tee left the Lions off the hook and the penalty count will have to improve next weekend. The discipline issues were best summed up by Mako Vunipola who had a meltdown in the second half conceding two quick fire penalties, the second penalty concession resulted in a sin bin. It was probably a blessing for the side that he was forced off as the red mist had descended. Video analysis will be tough viewing on this aspect for the British & Irish Lions.
Defining Last Quarter
18-9 entering the final quarter with a performance lacking composure and game management, you have to give the British & Irish Lions kudos for the way they stuck at the task, exposing fatigue in the New Zealand ranks defensively to score two tries. Faletau’s effort was reward for enterprising Lions attacking play, change the focus of attack from one side to another. Murray has to be credited for sensing the need to switch the point of attack. The Munster scrum-half’s try was excellent; a try out of absolute nothing and was reward for a good performance. New Zealand were now on the backfoot and with increased line speed from the bench, the momentum of the test match has decisively shifted.
Sub Bench Impact
This aspect of play was won by the British & Irish Lions. All subs that came on made an immediate impact. Courtney Lawes’ line speed, tempo and tackle count inspired those around him and complemented the imposing Maro Itoje in the second half. Kyle Sinckler has being the find of the tour; solid in open play and provided stability on set piece. He won the pivotal penalty at the death. Jack McGrath and Jack Nowell (meters gained leader) were assured in their work. New Zealand cleared their bench to little effect and Faumuina’s cameo will be remembered for his late hit on Sinckler which setup the game winning penalty from Owen Farrell.
In a tough evening for penalty kicks, Farrell edged his duel with Barrett who came up trumps with a high pressure kick to win the test match at the death. Barrett will rue a couple of penalty miss early in the second half as pivotal game changers. Given the number of penalties leaked by the visitors, the hosts would have expected a better return in penalty conversion rate. A telling aspect to the result tonight but Barrett will bounce back and provide stability to the kicking tee next weekend.
Lions line speed on point
The passive line speed seen by the British & Irish Lions last weekend was non-existent this weekend, excellent first up defensive line speed which stopped New Zealand go forward ball. The displays from the likes of Itoje, O’Brien set the tone and credit where credit is due, Jones and Warburton came up trumps. Jones was workmanlike and Warburton slowing New Zealand ball down at the breakdown. Murray was protected throughout in his kicking game. Yes, there were offside concessions but you need to be on the edge to gain the advantage in a test match like this.
Lions played a bit
In dreadful conditions, the British & Irish Lions played an expansive style and the two tries scored were reward for this approach. It was a bold statement when many would have suspected that they would be defensive and conservative. The sending off was a key point but Lions started the game on the front foot and this pressure laid the foundation for the final quarter tries. Kudos to the Lions. Roll on next weekend!