Lions tour: All Blacks overcome British and Irish Lions 30-15 in first Test in Auckland
The All Blacks have drawn first blood in a high-quality opening test against the British and Irish Lions, winning 30-15 and extending their streak at Eden Park to 39 straight victories.
The home team controlled the majority of the match through a bruising forward display led by captain Kieran Read who put in a super-human 77-minute effort in his first game back from a two-month thumb injury.
The Lions had a purple match before and after halftime built on superb counter-attacking from their back three, most notably fullback Liam Williams, resulting in a fantastic try to flanker Sean O'Brien which will go down as one of the best in the amalgamated team's history.
The All Blacks were able to control vast amounts of territory and possession thanks to the work of under-rated openside Sam Cane and his uncompromising Chiefs teammate Brodie Retallick who seems to have an engine that never runs out of gas.
Halfback Aaron Smith also looked sharp with front foot ball, controlling proceedings nicely from the base of the ruck while Beauden Barrett has surely silenced his goal-kicking doubters once and for all with a six-out-of-six effort from the tee including some tough ones from out wide.
Lions coach Warren Gatland will have to think seriously about some changes to his forward pack with the likes of veteran lock Alun Wyn Jones and prop Mako Vunipola struggling to match it with their opposites while talked up second-five Ben Te'o failed to deliver on the hype.
There were a couple of injury concerns for All Blacks coach Steve Hansen in the first half as he lost his fullback Ben Smith to yet another head knock while luckless midfielder Ryan Crotty suffered what appeared to be a hamstring injury.
Things went well for the Lions early on as centre Jonathan Davies broke through the line in a mismatch with prop Owen Franks and lock Sam Whitelock before winger Israel Dagg came up with a brilliant try-saving tackle on his opposite Elliot Daly in the left-hand corner.
The All Blacks momentum though as they put together several solid phases to break into the tourist's 22 and the Lions were caught offside as Barrett kicked the relatively straight-forward penalty for a 3-nil lead after 14 minutes.
The direct running and short passing game of the All Blacks was starting to pay massive dividends, and instead of opting for another shot at goal, Aaron Smith took a quick tap and sent the ball wide as hooker Codie Taylor scooped up a Dagg pass from around his bootlaces to score the opening try in the corner which Barrett converted from out wide for a 10-0 lead after 20 minutes.
Despite Ben Smith dropping a third box-kick from Murray, the penalties and missed tackles continued to stack up against the Lions as the All Blacks also dominated the territory and possession stats.
Smith went off for a concussion test after 27 minutes and didn't return as Barrett switched to fullback and Aaron Cruden came off the bench to run things at first-five.
The Lions finally got on the board in the 31st minute after prop Owen Franks took out Murray without the ball at a ruck, which was a borderline call, as first-five Owen Farrell made it 10-3 with a simple penalty kick.
Crotty, who came into the contest with a rib injury, limped off the field in the 33rd minute and was replaced by Anton Lienert-Brown as Barrett converted another close-range kick to reestablish the ten point advantage.
The momentum then swung all of a sudden as the Lions scored one of the greatest tries from a touring team at Eden Park.
Fullback Liam Williams broke out of his own 22, surging over halfway before passing to centre Jonathan Davies, who offloaded to Daly, who turned it back into Davies, who then popped the ball up to flanker Sean O'Brien for a brilliant counter-attacking try from an All Blacks kick to make the score 13-8 after a scintillating half of rugby.
Another magnificent try looked to be in the making as Lions fullback Williams again combined with Davies to counter-attack from a Sonny Bill Williams knock-on, but the tourists were stopped just short and chose to kick for touch instead of goal from a penalty which didn't pay off.
The attack kept on coming from the Lions and it was Williams once more who turned it inside to Watson who scythed through several tackles as the tourists threatened to score again.
Light drizzle started to fall, but nothing could dampen this contest as the All Blacks hit back with an impressive try of their own, but for different reasons.
Replacement props Charlie Faumuina and Wyatt Crockett along with the rest of the forward pack can take credit for the All Blacks second try of the night as they shunted the much-vaunted Lions pack into retreat before slinging the ball wide to an open Ioane who dived over for his second test try to make the score 20-8 after 56 minutes as Barrett again converted from out wide.
The All Blacks took the game by the scruff of the neck as the forwards continued to get over the advantage line, forcing the Lions to once again infringe as Barrett added another penalty to extend the lead to 23-8 after 62 minutes, effectively ending the tourist's hopes of victory.
20-year-old Ioane showed a tonne of pace in scoring his second try as fullback Williams shelled a simple bomb and the left-winger made the Lions pay as he scooted past the defence down the touchline and over for the try that extended the score to 30-8.
Replacement halfback Rhys Webb sniped around the side of a ruck to score a consolation try after the final hooter had gone and a streaker came charging across the field in a classic Kiwi-style end to a match.
In what was billed as a "clash of styles", the All Blacks won the battle up front while the Lions looked dangerous out wide.
On the evidence, it will be hard for Gatland's squad to win a test let alone the series against the All Blacks who were the dominant force and will only get better heading into the second test in Wellington next weekend.