Lions tour: British and Irish media react to the Lions' second Test win over the All Blacks

  • 02/07/2017

The British and Irish Lions prevailed over a 14-man All Blacks squad to tie the three match Test series.

Setting up a third and deciding Test in Auckland, they will attempt to do something a side has not done against the All Blacks for 24 years.

However, the British media are spending their time basking in the glory. Writing in the UK's Daily Mail, Sir Clive Woodward praised the composite team on their ability to outpace the All Blacks.

"The Lions were at their very best on Saturday when they started to play with tempo and trust their running and handling ability. It takes a huge amount of self-belief but they are beginning to realise that New Zealand are actually at their least comfortable when you play at the pace - or even higher - at which they usually prefer to operate," Woodward said.

"The Sexton/Farrell pairing doesn't come without risk and you could see New Zealand wanted to exploit it by sending the their big runners down that channel, but the Lions just about coped, often placing Sean O'Brien there to help out.

He also included a couple of tips for Gatland.

"Alun Wyn Jones put in a fine shift on Saturday but it is time for the Lions to go for the jugular and start with Courtney Lawes alongside Maro Itoje. Lawes made the predicted impact when he came off the bench and, like Itoje, is a great athlete."

The BBC's Tom Fordyce more complimented the Lions' ability to win ugly.

"This 24-21 win over the All Blacks was far from flawless. It was defined by errors as much audacity, by tension more than relentless brilliance. It may also prove critical long after this series has been decided and whichever way next Saturday's decider goes," Fordyce wrote.

Sonny Bill-Williams shown red in the first half.
Sonny Bill-Williams shown red in the first half. Photo credit: Getty Images

"To win a Test here, for only the second time in 40 years, against a side that had not lost at home since 2009 or on this ground since 2003, and had not been held tryless on their own soil for 15 years, both makes history and buttresses the future."

Fordyce was scathing of All Blacks' first five Beauden Barrett.

"Had Beauden Barrett not missed three kickable penalties they would have been out of sight. Mako Vunipola was sin-binned for a late charge on the fly-half, Conor Murray penalised for a high tackle. Panic spread when percentage play was required.

"If it sounds harsh to criticise Barrett, a man who landed 21 points with his boot and did much that was assured with ball in hand, it is also fair to say that the current world player of the year sometimes has feet of clay.

"His errors helped the numbers slowly turn the Lions' way, fresh legs from the bench denting weary ones in the opposition defence."

Rory Cashin from Ireland's was a little more realistic about the win, although he was positive about how the Lions played.

"New Zealand were beaten 21-24 by the Lions, thanks to a last-minute (ish) penalty by Owen Farrell," Cashin wrote.

"The comeback took just about everyone by surprise, with the odds on the Lions to lose being higher than anyone involved in a two-horse race should be expecting.

The All Blacks coaching staff.
The All Blacks coaching staff. Photo credit: Getty Images

"Even with Sonny Bill-Williams after a particularly nasty challenge, things still weren't looking particularly hopeful for the Lions, but with a great performance by the team - with a special shout out to Conor Murray for getting that try right at the end - they managed to turn things around just in time!"

Cashin's sentiment was reflected by Gerard Meagher in the Guardian.

"New Zealand do not lose many matches. They lose even fewer at home - before this they had won 47 on the spin - and back-to-back All Blacks defeats are the rarest of breeds, unseen for 19 years," said Meagher.

"Furthermore, this was also a first reverse in which they had failed to score a try since 1998. To expect that the Lions can restrict New Zealand to penalties back at Eden Park - where the All Blacks have not lost since 1994 - is fanciful.

"It is easy to point to Sonny Bill Williams's red card after 25 minutes as the key mitigating factor and to do so would be correct, even if Steve Hansen and his players do not publicly make excuses.

"Yet New Zealand’s ability to make light of their numerical disadvantage when down to 14 has been one of their great strengths - and so it proved for the 40 minutes after Williams made way."