Six Ireland internationals, including British & Irish Lions Test debutant CJ Stander, played their part in a dramatic 15-all draw at Eden Park as the Lions shared a truly unforgettable Test series with the All Blacks.
BRITISH & IRISH LIONS TOUR – THIRD TEST: Saturday, July 8
NEW ZEALAND 15 BRITISH & IRISH LIONS 15, Eden Park, Auckland
Scorers: New Zealand: Tries: Ngani Laumape, Jordie Barrett; Con: Beauden Barrett; Pen: Beauden Barrett
British & Irish Lions: Pens: Owen Farrell 4, Elliot Daly
HT: New Zealand 12 British & Irish Lions 6
Heading into the final quarter of this enthralling third Test in front of an engrossed Auckland crowd, the sides were tied at 12-12 – a fitting end for a topsy-turvy clash and indeed series.
The first half had been a tale of All Black wastefulness, Ngani Laumape and Jordie Barrett both crossing for tries on their first Test starts but really it could have been much more as the hosts dominated proceedings.
But the Lions stood up terrifically in defence and two penalties from Owen Farrell meant they only trailed 12-6 at the break. Elliot Daly then smashed over an effort from his own half to trim the lead further soon after the break and when Jerome Kaino saw yellow for a high tackle, the Lions were level as Farrell continued to have ice in his veins.
The stage was set for a thrilling final quarter and it was Beauden Barrett who looked like he had won it when the All Blacks won a scrum penalty. However, Farrell then stood firm after the Lions earned a penalty at the breakdown and his long range 78th-minute effort fell over the bar to set up a nerve-shredding last few minutes that the Lions somehow survived to earn a draw that will live long in the memory.
Giving his reaction afterwards, Ireland tighthead Tadhg Furlong, who started all three Tests, said: “I think I’ve learned a hell of a lot, been exposed to different coaching methods, players, ideas around scrum and general field. Matches don’t come much bigger than they do tonight, especially the occasion, the pressure on you, eyes of the four nations on you, I’ll definitely say I’ve grown a lot during the tour.
“It’s weird because we haven’t won and we’ve not lost either. Looking back, we’ll see it as a great achievement coming and pushing New Zealand so close in Eden Park, rebounding after a first Test loss, but for myself you’d like to see a clear winner.
“You’re in a bubble living minute-by-minute, moment-by-moment, off the pitch you feel the tension a bit more but out there you just focus on your job. I think we have about three weeks off when we land. I’m looking forward to doing a review on the season and maybe watching the Test matches again as you probably don’t fully appreciate everything while you’re out there.”
After last weekend’s reversal in Wellington, New Zealand wanted to make a statement early at Eden Park but in a first half of stunning physicality, the home side were not their usual clinical selves. Beauden Barrett missed an early penalty from bang in front of the posts, while Julian Savea then knocked on with the line in sight after the Barrett brothers had combined to break through.
Having ridden the early storm it was the Lions – with Maro Itoje prominent and Daly rising well under the high ball – that looked to be on the verge of the first try before Farrell compounded a nervy first quarter with a long pass that was picked off with the try-line frustratingly close.
The impressive Jonathan Davies, who was voted the Player of the Series by his Lions team-mates, then made a superb cover tackle to chase down Laumape. Nonetheless, the All Blacks were not as wasteful this time and the first try duly arrived – and it was made in Wellington as three Hurricanes combined – Beauden Barrett’s cross-kick to brother Jordie who batted the ball down for Laumape to go over.
This time Beauden Barrett was spot on with the conversion, but Farrell’s first penalty in the 21st minute got the Lions on the board not long after centre Davies’ clever kick had earned some territory. Back came the All Blacks though in a first half that continued to astonish with its frenetic pace, and when Savea burst through a second try looked iron-clad – but Sam Cane knocked on from the next phase.
The Lions blushes were being spared time after time as the New Zealand pack were churning out yards that their backs were wasting – Beauden Barrett and Laumape the next two to knock on deep in the Lions 22.
Ireland’s Jonathan Sexton, aside from one missed touch, was catching the eye for the Lions in attack, carrying hard to the line while Alun Wyn Jones was immense in defence, and after Davies made a great read to crunch the younger Barrett, the Lions could finally relieve some pressure and Farrell’s second penalty trimmed the lead to 7-6.
Sexton and Sean O’Brien were slight injury worries with half-time approaching, the former with an ankle problem and the latter a shoulder, and the All Blacks deservedly pounced soon after, Laumape’s wondrous break and offload releasing Anton Lienert-Brown and he put the younger Barrett over in the corner. This time his older Barrett brother could not add the extras and the Lions could count their blessings to only be six points down at the interval.
And that deficit got even smaller straight after the break – with CJ Stander on for his Ireland colleague O’Brien but Sexton continuing – when winger Daly smashed a mighty penalty over from his own half to make it 12-9.
Still Steven Hansen’s men failed to make their chances count in the second period, Savea called back for a forward pass from Jordie Barrett and the Lions were visibly growing in confidence while the hosts looked nervous.
Kaino then went high on Jones to earn himself a yellow card, Courtney Lawes introduced for the latter as a result, and the Lions had half-an-hour to go and a man advantage for ten of them.
Sexton was back after a check-up for Ben Te’o but the All Blacks, as they did last Saturday, were making light of their numerical disadvantage, with Liam Williams’ break pulled back for a forward pass. However, just before the hour mark and the return of Kaino, Brodie Retallick was punished for a high shot and Farrell made no mistake from distance to tie things up at 12-all.
The final quarter of this third Test was now on a knife-edge, an apt way to round off an incredible tour of this country. Beauden Barrett’s clever kick to the corner then put the All Blacks on the front foot, but another knock-on halted their momentum after a huge tackle from Taulupe Faletau.
Lions captain Sam Warburton then had to go off, bringing Jones back into the fray, but when Kyle Sinckler was pinged at scrum time in a central position, Beauden Barrett could not miss and the All Blacks were in front again with 12 minutes remaining.
Warburton was back on for the final ten minutes and the Lions finally got some reward when replacement scrum half Rhys Webb won a penalty at the breakdown and England star Farrell did the rest.
Carnage ensured from the restart as the All Blacks looked like they had won a kickable penalty, but TMO George Ayoub and referee Romain Poite opted for a scrum, and while the All Blacks were knocking at the door, in the end the Lions held on. That meant a drawn series, the first since the 1955 Lions in South Africa, and a memorable finish to the tour in Auckland.
TIME LINE: 3 minutes – New Zealand penalty: missed by Beauden Barrett – 0-0; 15 mins – New Zealand try: Ngani Laumape – 5-0; conversion: Beauden Barrett – 7-0; 21 mins – B&I Lions penalty: Owen Farrell – 7-3; 33 mins – B&I Lions penalty: Owen Farrell – 7-6; 46 mins – New Zealand try: Jordie Barrett – 12-6; conversion: missed by Beauden Barrett – 12-6; Half-time – New Zealand 12 B&I Lions 6; 42 mins – B&I Lions penalty: Elliot Daly – 12-9; 50 mins – New Zealand yellow card: Jerome Kaino; 60 mins – B&I Lions penalty: Owen Farrell – 12-12; 68 mins – New Zealand penalty: Beauden Barrett – 15-12; 78 mins – B&I Lions penalty: Owen Farrell – 15-15; Full-time – New Zealand 15 B&I Lions 15
NEW ZEALAND: Jordie Barrett; Israel Dagg, Anton Lienert-Brown, Ngani Laumape, Julian Savea; Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith; Joe Moody, Codie Taylor, Owen Franks, Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock, Jerome Kaino, Sam Cane, Kieran Read (capt).
Replacements used: Wyatt Crockett for Moody, Charlie Faumuina for Franks (both 58 mins), Ardie Savea for Cane (60), Malakai Fekitoa for Laumape (67), Nathan Harries for Taylor, Aaron Cruden for Savea (both 73), TJ Perenara for Smith (74), Scott Barrett for Whitelock (78).
BRITISH & IRISH LIONS: Liam Williams (Scarlets/Wales); Anthony Watson (Bath/England), Jonathan Davies (Scarlets/Wales), Owen Farrell (Saracens/England), Elliot Daly (Wasps/England); Jonathan Sexton (Leinster/Ireland), Conor Murray (Munster/Ireland); Mako Vunipola (Saracens/England), Jamie George (Saracens/England), Tadhg Furlong (Leinster/Ireland), Maro Itoje (Saracens/England), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys/Wales), Sam Warburton (Cardiff Blues/Wales) (capt), Sean O’Brien (Leinster/Ireland), Taulupe Faletau (Bath/Wales).
Replacements used: CJ Stander (Munster/Ireland) for O’Brien (half-time), Ben Te’o (Worcester Warriors/England) for Sexton (49-53), Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints/England) for Jones (50), Kyle Sinckler (Harlequins/England) for Furlong, Jack McGrath (Leinster/Ireland) for Vunipola (both 60), Jones for Warburton (67-73), Rhys Webb (Ospreys/Wales) for Murray, Ken Owens (Scarlets/Wales) for George (both 70), Te’o for Sexton, Jack Nowell (Exeter Chiefs/England) for Watson (both 73).
Referee: Romain Poite (France)