Lions tour: Warren Gatland wary of stoking All Blacks' fire

  • 02/07/2017

Warren Gatland has avoided poking the All Blacks bear after his British and Irish Lions's 24-21 second-Test victory, fully aware of the Kiwis' tendency to bounce back with force.

The Lions have sent the three-Test series to a decider next weekend at Eden Park with a gritty win against the world champions in Wellington, helped in part by Sonny Bill Williams' first-half red card.

Yet the statistics told the picture in the Cake Tin, with the Lions notching two tries and making more line breaks and offloads.

They kept the 14-man All Blacks tryless for the first time in three years and handed them their first loss on home soil since 2009.

Gatland felt his side had stepped up physically and outplayed the All Blacks but admitted Williams' red card significantly aided that dominance.

He declined to gloat after the victory, given the All Blacks' tendency to come out after a Test loss and blow away their opponents.

They followed up a 2015 Rugby Championship loss to the Wallabies with a 41-13 thumping at Eden Park the following week and responded to a shock 2016 loss to Ireland with a 21-9 win in Dublin two weeks later.

"We know in the past, historically, what New Zealand teams are like when they lose - they respond," Gatland told reporters.

"We know we're going to be in for an almighty battle at Eden Park next week but we've come out of tonight with some belief and confidence."

In pouring rain, the Lions gave up 13 penalties for repeated offside and breakdown infringements, handing the All Blacks seven penalty goals.

Gatland said that, on another day and with an extra man, the All Blacks would have likely made his side pay for such carelessness.

And, down 18-9 with 20 minutes to play, they almost did - until Taulupe Faletau and Conor Murray's tries turned around the match.

In further positive news for Gatland, his troops have emerged from the Test without any injuries to report - and will have further opportunities to rest and recuperate with a three-day break in Queenstown.

They'll then travel up to Auckland looking to become the first victorious Lions side on Kiwi soil since 1971.

NZN