Breathtaking. What a match. Incredible rugby, both teams fully committed, no quarter asked or given, bodies were on the line and in the end, it ended all square with honours even. Whilst both teams appeared disappointed at the final whistle, there was huge mutual respect between the players and they are all a credit to the sport. The Lions deserve huge plaudits for their resilience and can feel incredibly proud of their efforts and the history books will reflect that. Gatland has proved yet again his ability as a coach and should be rightly applauded.
As expected the All Blacks started the match very strongly. They were very dominant throughout the first half but missed some very good try scoring opportunities which arguably kept the Lions in it, and to only be six points behind at half time they could consider themselves very fortunate. The second try just before half time could have been critical, which showed the All Blacks at their offloading best and was arguably no more than they deserved, but their goal kicking let them down. They should really have been further ahead.
In the first half, the Lions fought valiantly and defended strongly but always seemed to be hanging on in the face of a ferocious onslaught. They had one good chance of their own after some strong attacking multi phased play but Farrell’s hopeful looped pass was intercepted and almost led to an All Black try at the other end, only prevented by some desperate Lions defence.
At the start of the second half the All Blacks were very ambitious, turning down a relatively straightforward kick at goal as they searched for the knockout blow, a try that would arguably have put them well clear but their execution was poor. They knocked on and dropped balls in the face of some strong Lions tackling and they just could not add to their score, other than one penalty.
The Lions kept in the match and narrowed the deficit and then drew level through excellent long range goal kicking from Daly and Farrell and really tried to take the match to the All Blacks. It was helter skelter and the match ebbed and flowed, one way then the other, and whilst it was often error strewn, it really made for unmissable viewing and showed rugby at its glorious best.
However, as hard as they tried, neither side could really take the initiative and they were both thwarted by such errors as their skills suffered under pressure. Some of these errors were forced, as a result of intense pressure from the other side, and others were more basic, such as crooked line out throws, arguably as a result of the pressure of the situation. Neither side could really build enough territory or momentum or secure enough quality possession to force the victory and in the end a draw was probably a fair result.
It would have been harsh on the Lions if the All Blacks had been awarded a penalty for an offside in the dying moments, but referee Poite plus his TMO arguably made the correct decision in calling a scrum, much to the disappointment of the All Blacks. It would have been cruel for the Lions to have lost in such circumstances and so in the end, all their efforts of the past eight weeks were not wasted and they could finish the tour with their heads held high and honour intact.
Marks Out of 10
Williams 7 A little fallible under the high ball and occasionally in the tackle, albeit he did made a strong tackle to prevent a third All Blacks try at the start of the second half and was often in the thick of the action. He gave it his all and always looked dangerous in attack. Can feel proud of his efforts, particularly after a disappointing start to the tour and credit must be given to Gatland for selecting him, for he certainly made a difference and proved that he was the best full back on tour.
Watson 7 Another good match. Strong defensively, tackling and in the air, and always dangerous in attack with his dancing feet. Consistent and reliable, albeit was never quite able to get away from his opposite number.
Davies 9 Very accomplished. Strong, both in the tackle and taking the ball up from first phase possession. Also good with the ball in the open spaces, making breaks, passing well and some very astute kicking. The best Lions back on tour.
Farrell. 7 Unusually, he made a nervous start with a kick straight into touch, a pass intercepted and a high tackle. However, he grew into the match and looked dangerous and passed well as the match progressed and ultimately, his nerveless goal kicking ensured that the Lions came away with a draw.
Daly 7 Made a good start, was calm in defence, took a good early catch and was always good with the ball in hand. However, he was outflanked and outjumped for the All Blacks first try, albeit he was left very exposed could not really do much about it. He converted a brilliant penalty kick from inside the Lions half at the start of the second half and became more involved with ball in hand, but blotted his copybook by dropping a long kick which was landing over his head, losing the Lions crucial possession. Overall another good match and a very successful tour for the Wasp, who very few would have picked in their starting XV before the tour.
Sexton 7 Another positive performance. He often took the ball up on the gain line, was looking for gaps and always asking questions of the All Blacks defence. One missed touch apart, he had a very decent match. Fully justified his selection.
Murray 7 Appeared very confident after his try in the second test and looked sharp, often having an eye for the break, so keeping the All Blacks’ back row interested, which is what he must do to be one of the world’s best scrum halves. His box kicking was accurate and better than last week.
Mako 8 Much better this week and was very disciplined. He was very prominent around the pitch with ball in hand and in defence. Fully justified his selection
George 6 Was prominent around the pitch and in the loose, but two poor line out throws that were not straight at critical stages in the second half resulted in his substitution. It is these moments that separate the great from the very good and George still has a little way to go, but he can feel well pleased with his overall contribution, as he had not started a match for England before this tour, let alone the Lions.
Furlong 7 Another strong match in the tight and prominent in the loose, often showing good hands too. A real find, and for one so young he has a big future ahead of him.
Itoje 9 An excellent match. He started well with two early turnovers including one line out steal and he just went from strength to strength. He was very visible throughout and showed huge strength around the pitch, on the ground and in defence, as well as with ball in hand. He has taken on extra responsibility with the line out calls too and he’s really stepped up to the mark and come of age in all respects. With his name ringing out around the stadium yet again, he is becoming something of a superstar and has proved that he really is a world class performer
AW Jones 6 His ninth consecutive test match for the Lions, which was a huge achievement and he was his unusual industrious self. Made a nuisance of himself as always but was turned over on one occasion, which he will have been disappointed about and was replaced by Lawes as expected on the hour mark.
Warburton 8 A captain’s performance again, leading from the front and always involved. A team always benefits from having its leader firing on all cylinders and making a big contribution (just like Joe Root for the England cricket team right now) and it always inspires his team mates.
O’Brien 7 Replaced at half time after injury but played well when he was on and was heavily involved, both defensively and with ball in hand.
Faletau 7 Unusually turned over at the start of the second half, but rectified that with a turnover of his own later in the match. A strong presence for the Lions throughout and a consistent ball carrier. Hugely in credit and was immense throughout the tour.
McGrath 6 Only on for a short period but the Lions scrum really started to fire at the end.
Sinckler 6 As per McGrath, albeit he was unluckily penalised for supposedly bringing the scrum down which enabled the All Blacks to take the lead. However, he showed his strength to ensure that at the following scrums the Lions were in ascendancy.
Owens 6 As per McGrath and Sinckler, a late replacement with under ten minutes to go, but he showed up well in the closing scrums.
Lawes 6 As in the second test, he replaced AW Jones with 20 minutes to go and added some strength and dynamism but did not really get an opportunity to show his ball carrying abilities.
CJ Stander 6 Replaced O’Brien at half time and got involved both in attack and defence but like Lawes, didn’t find much room to really show what he can do with ball in hand and was well patrolled.
Webb 6 He was given 12 minutes to try and win the match and he did his level best with his heads up rugby and awareness of the break. Threw one poor pass at the end which was dropped when the Lions were counter-attacking and was one of those ‘if only’ moments, albeit the Lions were still a long way from the All Blacks try line.
T’eo 6 He was given a few minutes towards the end but saw little of the ball and could not make a difference.
Nowell 6 Ditto T’eo
The Lions Support 9 Incredible noise and voice throughout, supposedly outnumbering the All Blacks support in the stadium. A magnificent effort from those in red.