Victory from the jaws of defeat ……………….British and Irish Lions Vs New Zealand All Blacks….Saturday 1July 2017

See it for what it is, not what you want it to be would be the total summation of the second test.For only the second time in 40 years the Lions achieved victory in New Zealand, however The All Blacks never really got going and yet the Lions did everything  they could in nearly losing  the second test. Westpac Stadium enveloped in teeming rain and swirling winds provided the backdrop.From the very start  the All Blacks performed a tame haka which really did not raise anyone’s heart rate. The first 25 minutes saw a titanic struggle as each side battled for supremacy , no one would have ever predicted  what would follow as Sonny Bill Williams seemingly innocuously  tackled Anthony Watson. Television replays would reveal that the New Zealand centre had  lead with the shoulder, crashing straight into Watson’s unprotected face. That left match referee Jerome Garces no choice but to issue a red card. An infamous stat that will consign Williams to history as the first All Black  to be sent off at home and only the second after Colin Meads.

This unexpected curveball for both teams would provide them with different strategies of how to achieve success. For the All Blacks it was how would they survive for 65 minutes with a man down whereas for the Lions it was the unexpected kill they could feed on. However it would be the men in black who would react the quickest and galvanise themselves whilst the Lions stumbled and blundered in trying to rip apart their prey and eat.The first half would end 9 a piece but what was witnessed in the second half was alarming to say the least , the three key components in any  team’s game plan ,possession, territory and discipline seemed to have been totally forgotten by the Lions. Thirty one  percent in possession and territory is inexcusable let alone the 13 penalties they conceded Mako Vunipola contributing with four on his own, all within kickable range. How fortunate that Beauden Barrett’s profligacy at goal allowed the Lions to be only nine points adrift after 58 minutes.It seems having a man sent off or sin binned spurs a team into action , Vunipola was sin binned and the Lions managed to score a try a few minutes later making it 18-14. However their lack of discipline would see them give New Zealand another 3 points with a needless penalty. One could be forgiven in forgetting that one team was missing a player as the All Blacks seemed to be coping well and pulling away. The Lions would come back with  delayed pass by Jonny Sexton onto Hooker Jamie George who made a rampaging break that allowed Murray to storm through a gap, touch down and see Farrell boot a match-levelling conversion.

With ten minutes to go and the scores tied it ironically came to discipline , a key component that was missing from both sides the whole game.Charlie Faumuina was unlucky to concede the penalty that would send his team to only their first loss at home since 2009.The Lions will be ecstatic that they won and levelled the series but there are worrying signs from the game that need to be examined.Despite their one-man advantage, though, the Lions were almost made to pay for poor discipline.It took 77 minutes for them to take the lead, despite Williams getting his marching orders in the 25th minute.It shouldn’t have taken so long in taking control of the match meaning perhaps a lack of composure  .Tactical kicking was poor as well. The positives are that they scored two tries and managed to keep the All Blacks tryless.Their defence was very good as they showed more aggression in the breakdown. A foolhardy match to say the least and it should be seen for what it is not ,what you want it to be. All roads lead back to the North Island with Lions coaching staff having to have a proper look at that match reel and fix the deficiencies quickly otherwise an All Black backlash could see forty points against the Lions. Confucius sums it up perfectly “The expectations of life depend upon diligence; the mechanic that would perfect his work must first sharpen his tools”.


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