Lions and All Blacks tie thrilling third test and series   8 Jul 2017

Robert Kitson

Kieran Read and Sam Warburton lift the series trophy after the match.

Lions and All Blacks tie thrilling final Test and series

 New Zealand 15-15 British & Irish Lions

The British & Irish Lions have exceeded most expectations on this tour and did so again in a thrilling third Test. New Zealand’s proud unbeaten record in Auckland remains intact but the Lions have secured an honourable 1-1 draw in the series. If they could not quite emulate their 1971 predecessors, it will still go down as an extraordinary effort against all the odds.

The home side scored the game’s two tries in the first half through Ngani Laumape and Jordie Barrett but the Lions defiantly fought their way back to 15-15 before the game’s decisive moment. The French referee Romain Poite initially awarded the All Blacks a kickable 79th-minute penalty for offside against Ken Owens but, after deciding it had been accidental, changed his decision and awarded a scrum.

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The first half alone was worth the hefty admission money. Play swept one way then the other, with the Lions initially clinging on before starting to make positive headway. It did the touring team no harm that Barrett missed a straightforward penalty and Julian Savea uncharacteristically let slip a chance to score wide on the left.

The Lions, however, had occasional joy at the breakdown and managed to ease the early pressure, surging upfield after a stolen lineout by Maro Itoje had again disrupted All Black momentum. It looked all but certain they would score only for Farrell, who had already had a couple of shaky moments, to have a potential scoring pass to Anthony Watson intercepted. Up the other end surged Beauden Barrett in a passage of play as breathless as any in the series and it was the All Blacks who ended up scoring the first points.

The Lions have been wary all series of Barrett’s cross-field kicking but stopping it is a different matter. Like a tennis pro reaching back for an overhead smash his younger brother Jordie Barrett clawed the ball back into play and Laumape collected the loose ball to mark his first Test start with a try. The older Barrett’s touchline conversion further compounded the Lions’ pain.

It was to the Lions’ credit that they hung in there, two Farrell penalties rewarding the tireless work of his forwards. With Sexton receiving lengthy treatment for a leg injury, however, the Lions were once again reminded how quickly the All Blacks can create a chance out of nothing. With less than four minutes left in the first half a wonderful offload from Laumape gave Anton Lienert-Brown the time and space to find Jordie Barrett outside him and the big full-back dived over unopposed for the kind of score he and his brothers dreamed about as kids on the family’s dairy farm in Taranaki.

Owen Farrell sends a penalty through the uprights.  Owen Farrell sends a penalty through the uprights. Photograph: Jason Reed/Reuters

New Zealand simply do not lose at Eden Park when they are ahead at the break. They had won 57 of their previous 58 games at the venue when leading at half-time, losing only to England in 1973. The Lions badly needed some early encouragement and it duly arrived in the form of a monster 53-metre penalty from Elliot Daly that narrowed the deficit to 12-9.

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The 50th minute yellow card shown to Jerome Kaino for a dangerous high tackle to the face of Jones offered the visitors a further glimmer of hope but a crooked lineout throw and a fractional forward pass from Watson to Liam Williams prevented the Lions from capitalising instantly. A smashing tackle on Jordie Barrett by Jonathan Davies also put the All Blacks on the back foot before, finally, another long-range missile from Farrell levelled up the scores with 20 minutes to go.

The replacement Kyle Sinckler was then penalised and Beauden Barrett made no mistake, before Farrell levelled the scores once more. A stunning series had the thrilling finale it fully deserved.

New Zealand: Tries Laumape, J Barrett. Con B Barrett. Pen B Barrett.

British & Irish Lions: Pens Farrell 4, Daly1

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