The British and Irish Lions rallied to secure a 24-21 comeback victory over the All Blacks to keep their three-match series alive heading into the final game of the tour next weekend. Here’s the key talking points to come out of the match at Westpac Stadium, Wellington on Saturday night.
The tackle that divided hemispheres
It was always going to be Sonny Bill Williams who got this tour trending worldwide on the internet.
Granted this wasn’t the manner most would have predicted it would happen in, but in the 25th minute ‘SBW’ got people talking, debating and hating like only he can.
Whether you thought the tackle was an honest mistake or an act of thuggery – and you can decide for yourself by looking at it below – there’s little doubt it will go down as the major talking point of the 2017 tour.
Here’s one side of the argument…
— Ronan Madigan (@ronanmadigan) July 1, 2017
Disgraceful cowardly cheap shot delivered with force & intent to head of defenceless Anthony Watson by Sonny Bill Williams @stephenjones9
— Alisdair Hogg (@ajshogg) July 1, 2017
And the other…
Harsh on @SonnyBWilliams see them everyweek.. dont like the slowmo… it didnt happen that slow.. we got away with it.
— Peter Curtis (@petermole1) July 1, 2017
— Geoff Hitchcock (@Hitchy1) July 1, 2017
A trip to the judiciary awaits Mr Williams, and if the Tana Umaga spear tackle on Brian O’Driscoll from 2005 is anything to go by, it’s likely people will be talking about this hit for many years to come.
Defensive effort gets Lions home
The All Blacks threw everything they had at the Lions, and even when they went down to 14 men had enough quality to create a number of scoring opportunities.
But on this particular night the visitors just kept soaking it up and refused to be broken down.
Despite having to make 122 tackles – almost double the total count the All Blacks clocked up – coach Warren Gatland’s team tackled at 92 per cent accuracy.
New Zealand enjoyed 61 per cent of the total possession in Wellington and had 57 per cent territory, yet they couldn’t get over for a try thanks to the staunch Lions defence.
It’s very rare that you keep the All Blacks without a try.
A night of generational firsts for All Blacks
A first home defeat in eight years and a first defeat in Wellington since 2003 for the All Blacks.
Prior to Saturday night Kieran Read was the only current All Black who knew how it felt to lose on Kiwi soil, and the defeat to the Lions signals the end to an incredible run at home for New Zealand.
That wasn’t the only bit of unfavourable history to come out of the match for the All Blacks, with Williams’ red card being the first time a New Zealand player has been sent from the field in half a century.
This was also the first time the All Blacks have been kept without a try in New Zealand since 1998. Many of the players in Saturday night’s squad were barely out of nappies back then.
The last time NZ failed to score a try and lost at home was v South Africa at the old Athletic Park in July 1998.
— Stuart Farmer (@Stu_Farmer) July 1, 2017
Validation for Farrell
Criticised for his performance in the first Test defeat to the All Blacks, Owen Farrell silenced his doubters in Wellington with a match-winning performance.
Sections of the media in both New Zealand and the UK suggested Gatland’s decision to play Farrell and Jonathan Sexton was a risk, but it paid off.
Feel hugely sorry for Owen Farrell
One average game and the angry mob are out
No way should he be dropped for second test
— Paul Williams (@thepaulwilliams) June 25, 2017
After struggling to impose himself at Eden Park a week ago, Farrell came up big in Wellington, kicking 14 of his side’s 24 points and contributing well on attack.
Despite calls for him to be dropped, Gatland stuck strong with Farrell and was rewarded.
— Alex Spink (@alexspinkmirror) July 1, 2017
Farrell finished the second Test having beaten three defenders, while in defence he had just the one missed tackle.
His final penalty to win the match showed nerves of steel.
All Blacks come close despite the circumstances
New Zealand will take some confidence out of the fact that they came extremely close to downing the Lions despite playing most of the match a man down.
Even in their weakened state the All Blacks were able to match it with, and actually outplay the Lions, for much of the game.
Coach Steve Hansen’s side dominated possession, territory and yardage gained.
They performed better at the set piece, winning 90 per cent of the time at the lineout and 100 per cent in scrums, that compared to their opponent’s 80 and 83 per cent success rate in those categories respectively.
With the exception of Williams’ red card offence, the All Blacks had better discipline, giving away just eight penalties compared to the Lions’ 13.
If you looked at the key stat categories alone then you would be inclined to think the All Blacks won this match, and that bodes well for them in the decider.