Hello everyone! It’s been a while since my last post… Emily and I are finally back in the UK after an incredible couple of months backpacking around South-East Asia! Fortunately we were able to keep ourselves up-to-date with what has been an absolutely enthralling Lions series! It’s certainly had it’s highs and lows over the last couple of weeks, but with the series tentatively poised at one apiece going into the final test game, and The British and Irish Lions are on the brink of making history, this Welsh Rugby Man could hardly be more excited!
Despite a real mixed bag of results against a handful of New Zealand’s provincial and representative sides, I was very optimistic gong into the first test match in Auckland. That game, I felt, suffered from a lack of impact by the Lions replacements, who seemed to slightly lack the same bite and purpose of the starters, and were also unable to exact the game plan efficiently. The All Blacks were typically able to capitalise on our disarray, ultimately easing to a comfortable 30-15 victory – a score-line made decidedly less ugly for the Lions thanks to a late Rhys Webb dart for the line.
On the plus side, the Lions did score undoubtedly one of the greatest team tries of the season, perhaps even one of the best the Lions have scored in the professional era.
The Lions needed a response.
Game two was played in horrendous conditions at the Cake Tin in Wellington, and after a tense opening twenty minutes, Sonny Bill Williams found himself at the centre of one of the games’ defining moments. A reckless tackle on Anthony Watson saw SBW plough his shoulder into Watson’s head, and with strict new protocol introduced to protect players against head injuries, the All Blacks centre was dismissed with a red card.
As happens so often, the host rallied, opening a 18-9 lead as the Lions seemingly struggled to make their one-man advantage count. This was turning into a game New Zealand looked likely to win, against the odds.
The tide turned in favour of the visitors, however, when the outstanding Taulupe Faletau showed his strength to cross the whitewash on the left wing while the visitors were also (temporarily) down to fourteen men. Faletau has had an incredible Lions tour. I remember him scoring a similar try against New Zealand for Wales last summer. He is a relentless carrier and defender – exactly the sort of number 8 you need against the All Blacks.
Connor Murray scored a second try for the Lions, the canny scrum-half showing his class with a delicious dart through a gap at a ruck – last seen in The Big Book of Rhys Webb Tries.
With the game tied at 21-21, New Zealand conceded a penalty for tackling Kyle Sinckler in the air, and Owen Farrell calmly took the three points. With four minutes remaining, the Lions – for once – kept their cool, and ground out a famous victory on Kiwi soil. Needless to say, I went pretty crazy when the final whistle went!
I am immensely proud of this superb victory. I’ve always had the confidence that this excellent squad has enough talent grunt and determination to beat the All Blacks in their own backyard. Now, they have a chance to win the series, as both teams return to Auckland for the deciding match on Saturday. Warren Gatland has stuck to his guns and named the same 23-man squad for the final test, and who can blame him? The Lions coaches and players alike feel they still have an extra gear, and let’s be honest, they’re going to need it this week, against a wounded All Blacks team that, up until last week’s game, hadn’t lost a game since 2011, and hadn’t failed to score a try in a test match since 1993.
Let’s hope more records tumble on Saturday!
Come on Lions!!