Kieran Read hadn’t played for 6 weeks, but you wouldn’t have known it!
The All Black captain had more carries than anyone else on the pitch in a win that underlined why the ABs are the best team on the planet – and by some distance!
The Lions had a good crack and with the clinical sort of finishing that the men in black had, might have pushed them a lot closer – but they were mainly outplayed in the key areas.
The All Black forwards gradually gained advantage everywhere except maybe the lineout – they were better at the breakdown and stopped the driving maul by sacking it early.
Warren Gatland and his coaches will inevitably be disappointed at the number of penalties the Lions conceded, but many of those were the result of AB pressure rather than the Lions indiscipline. They will not be easy to eradicate next week in the ‘must win’ game in Wellington.
Surprisingly the Lions backs stood up to their opposite numbers better than the forwards and it was easy to see why Sean Fitzpatrick said the ABs have the best pack in the world. The Lions pack may well be the second best on the planet and didn’t back down but they were still bested.
It is no good wishing that Elliott Daly and Jonathan Davies had finished the breaks
Or that Liam Williams had more opportunities to run – the game is over and lost.
The question now is just how might the Lions turn it around next week?
The answer is with extreme difficulty.
I suspect that there will be changes in the squad – both starters and the bench. Despite the good stuff the plan didn’t work and so the coaches will need to try something different.
I would put Maro Itoje and Courtney Lawes together in the pack and possibly have both Owen Farrell and Johnny Sexton starting.
This seems unfair on Ben Te’o who played well and didn’t let SBW run wild – but Owen can tackle and the combination with Johnny Sexton offers a better chance to give Jonathan Davies and the back three room to go wide.
I think Justin Tipuric has to be on the bench and maybe Iain Henderson – removing both George Kruis and Sam Warburton
There will be a lot of other suggestions from ‘sofa critics’ like myself – often fuelled by nationalism. Luckily they won’t matter it will be Gatland’s call.
The fact is however, no matter what changes are made, the chances of winning in Wellington are slim.
The All Blacks pace and handling, from 1 to 23 was outstanding and will only get better as the series develops. They offload at will and more importantly with a precision that the Lions didn’t match.
There is a chance however – the All Blacks do occasionally have off days, and it is a two horse race – so, fingers crossed eh?