Lions tour: All Blacks tie with British and Irish Lions in third Test to draw series
For the first time ever, the All Blacks and British and Irish Lions have drawn a Test series.
The third and final Test finished in a 15-all draw after a late penalty to the All Blacks was controversially overturned.
The Lions had just levelled the scores in the 77th minute when they dropped a kickoff into one of their own players in an offside position, but the initial penalty was changed to a scrum for accidental offside.
It was an incorrect call from referee Romain Poite and his Television Match Official George Ayoub and denied first-five Beauden Barrett a chance to win the game with a 30 metre penalty, slightly on the angle.
It was an extremely tense encounter as the All Blacks scored two tries to none, but couldn’t pull away from a determined Lions team who defended stoutly all night.
Fullback Jordie Barrett and second-five Ngani Laumape silenced any doubters in their first Test starts with a sublime opening forty minute effort as both players dotted down.
The younger Barrett brother showed maturity beyond his years with several clutch high-ball takes and some slick handling while Laumape produced some brilliant offloads and solid defensive hits.
The Lions never led the encounter and only led for three minutes in the entire series but will leave for the Northern Hemisphere as the second team to not lose a Test series to the All Blacks in New Zealand.
The home team had plenty of opportunities, but ultimately made too many handling errors which will be disappointing for coach Steve Hansen.
You could feel the desperation in the air from both sets of supporters as All Blacks captain Kieran Read was given the honour of running out alone in front of a feverish Eden Park crowd in his 100th Test.
Beauden Barrett had the chance to ease some nerves and put his average kicking performance from the previous week behind him with an early penalty from 41 metres out and right in front, but he shanked it to the left much to the delight of the hoard of Lions supporters behind the posts.
The crowd started to find its voice and it was the All Blacks fans who instigated the “chant-off” and more than held their own against the supposedly more vocal and passionate Lions.
On the field, the tourists were putting the All Blacks under plenty of pressure with strong forward runs in the red-zone as they slung the ball wide, but Beauden Barrett latched onto an intercept and couldn’t quite get away as he popped the ball up to Ngani Laumape, who was caught by Lions centre Jonathan Davies as the Lions snuffed out a big opportunity.
But not for long.
The All Blacks got the ball back and continued to attack, a signature Beauden Barrett cross-kick found his brother Jordie out on the sideline who cleverly tapped the ball back in-field to Laumape who skillfully picked the ball up and dived over for the first try of the night which was coverted from the right-hand touchline for a 7-0 lead after 17 minutes.
The Lions got on the scoreboard just minutes later as Beauden Barrett was penalized for not rolling away in the ruck, Owen Farrell making no mistake from close-range as the All Blacks led 7-3.
A huge tighthead from the All Blacks should’ve returned points just ten metres out from the try-line but a short-ball from halfback Aaron Smith was spilled by Beauden Barrett as the Lions earned a penalty from the next scrum.
Captain Kieran Read went down in the 31st minute after copping an elbow attempting to tackle Lions winger Anthony Watson and it didn’t look good, but the inspirational number eight got back to his feet only to see Farrell slot another handy penalty to close the gap to just 7-6 despite the All Blacks territory and possession advantage.
The five minutes before and after halftime are often when Tests are won and lost and it was the All Blacks who launched from a lineout, Laumape getting a fantastic one-handed offload away to Anton Lienert-Brown who found Jordie Barrett in space as the 20 year-old scored his first Test try in his first start to make it 12-6 at halftime.
Influential flanker Sean O’Brien didn’t return after the break after suffering a shoulder injury in the first half, replaced by CJ Stander as winger Elliot Daly landed a long-range penalty to start the second half to make the score 12-9.
The All Blacks had an opportunity to return the favour but opted to kick for touch and Beauden Barrett did brilliantly, kicking the ball out just six minutes away from the try-line.
The ensuing backline move almost paid dividends as Julian Savea crossed the line untouched but the pass from Jordie Barrett was obviously forward as another opportunity to score went begging for the All Blacks who were starting to make a few too many handling errors against a Lions team that looked like they were just hanging on despite being just three points behind.
The All Blacks found themselves with fourteen men for a second Test in a row as blindside enforcer Jerome Kaino caught Lions lock Alun Wyn Jones with a swinging arm to the jaw and was sent to the sin-bin for ten minutes in the 50th minute in an identical incident to O’Brien’s the week before which went unpunished.
The momentum started to shift as Jordie Barrett attempted a clearing kick and was hit hard in the tackle simultaneously as the ball sailed out on the full and the Lions launched from the All Blacks 22 metre line but it was their turn to come unstuck with a simple handling error.
Discipline was now started to be a problem for the All Blacks too as lock Brodie Retallick caught Lions opposite Courtney Lawes with a high tackle, Farrell landing the 45 metre penalty to lock the scores up at 12-all with just twenty minutes to play as Kaino returned from his yellow card.
Replacement loose-head prop Wyatt Crockett forced Lions tight-head Kyle Sinkler to collapse on his side of the scrum and Beauden Barrett kicked the penalty from point-blank range to put the All Blacks ahead 15-12 after 68 minutes.
And it was Crockett again who this time gave away a penalty for not rolling away at the ruck as Farrell’s deadly boot once again found its target from close to 50 metres out to level the scores at 15-all with just three minutes left on the clock.
More drama with the Series on the line as Lions fullback Liam Williams dropped the kick-off into reserve hooker Ken Owens’ arms and was penalised for being offside, the decision went up to TMO George Ayoub who changed the on-field call to a scrum instead for accidental offside which is not in the rule book.
The All Blacks launched one last attacking raid down the right-hand touchline but Jordie Barrett was bundled into touch just five metres short.
The crowd was in stunned silence as the referee blew the whistle, the series finishing at one-all.