Lord Byron once said “In play there are two pleasures for your choosing, the one is winning, and the other losing. unfortunately the sporting grandstand showdown at Eden Park left everyone with a bemused unsatiated feeling. Perhaps a vexatious fitting end to six weeks of drama, razzle dazzle,intrigue and controversy.
Eden Park has not seen an opposition victory in 23 years , The Lions got close but not close enough as they failed to create chances to overhaul their mercurial opponents, credit however should be given to them as they hung in there courtesy of Owen Farrell’s boot along with Elliot Daly’s monster penalty kick. From the onset the All Blacks looked to impose themselves, starting with an improvised Kapa O Pango minus the cut throat gesture but nevertheless spine tingling.They seemed intent on correcting the errors of their Wellington defeat playing with verve and ambition. The Hurricane All Black backline players were in imperious form, as they collaborated to score two tries and banish any thoughts of their first start status.It would have been worse for the Lions as New Zealand butchered three try scoring opportunities before half time. The Lions exhibited their “All For One” motto as they stuck together and hung in there, 12-6 at halftime.
In the second half saw an opportunity for the Lions to capitalise as Jerome Kaino was sin binned for a forearm to the face of Alun Wyn Jones.Once again they seemed not able to do so as they blundered and were inept. From forward passes to knock ons and wayward lineouts it seemed they were doing everything in not wanting to win.With Farrell managing to land a penalty in the last minute of Kaino’s exile , a grandstand finale was in store. however there would be no break in the deadlock right up until the controversial moment of the penalty turned scrum. Referee Roman Poite initially awarded a penalty from the re-start when replacement hooker Ken Owens caught the ball in an offside position after Liam Williams had got his hands to it. He would review it and seem to stick with his initial decision but yet change his mind to a scrum when talking with both captains. A scrum would be had and it would amount to nought. Poite would eventually end this enthralling but ultimately frustrating Test match.No real joy. No satisfaction. After six weeks, after 10 absorbing games, after three quality Test matches, no one wanted or would have envisaged a drawn series.
The Lions have come through a series where many had predicted 3-0 whitewash loss to the Kiwis.Honour and pride was restored in the red jersey from scoring that sensational try in the first test and facing such intense media scrutiny over their geographical call ups. They never buckled in their togetherness.The Lions have shown that the All Blacks are not invincible,They stifled them with their rush defence and a rugby league type of line speed defending forcing them to revise and think of new strategies to win.The pressure cooker environment seemed to have a telling effect on how both teams played. The Lions failing to capitalise on numerical advantages and the All Blacks profligate with their clear try scoring opportunities.The series was enthralling, brutal, exciting and sprinkled with superb individual performances from Jonathan Davies, Maro Itoje,Anthony Watson and Taulupe Falateau. Hopefully this series provides a blueprint in showing that the southern hemisphere sides can be beaten on a regular basis.
Here’s hoping the Lion’s brand continues to live on despite the murmurings from the clubs, The tours are huge and the camaraderie that binds players from different countries lives on beyond their playing days and provides wonderful stories for supporters and players alike. Core values of world rugby such as integrity,passion and solidarity have been on show in abundance .The Lion’s fans bring a energy that no other team’s supporters can replicate and it will be 2029 until New Zealand witness the Lions roaring mightily on their shores.