The Greatest Show on Earth

Despite making a litany of attempts to lose the match, the Lions found a way to beat the All Blacks on NZ soil for the first time since 2009 – something the Springboks, Wallabies, Wales, England and France amongst others have all failed to manage.

That is the scale of the heights that the Lions reached. They will have to get even higher next Saturday at Eden Park if they are to join the 1971 Immortals and win the series.

But that’s for next week – right now we can wallow in the euphoria that greeted the final whistle and a score line that read All Blacks 21 Lions 24.

No doubt the NZ media will make much of the red card that SBW picked up after 24 minutes, but even they surely can’t argue that it wasn’t justified. You can’t make a direct hit on the head – especially with the shoulder in a no arms tackle.

Despite having only 14 for more than half the game the All Blacks still looked like they were going to seal the series – at 18-9 there didn’t seem to be anyway back for the Lions.

Well, not until the Lions decided it was about time that they showed everyone that they can finish!

Two great tries from Taulupe Faetau and Connor Murray plus some nerveless kicking from Owen Farrell dragged them into a 3 point lead with just 2 minutes left on the clock.

The sea of red in the stands went wild at the final whistle and underlined why the Lions really are the Greatest Show on Earth. I still worry that without changes the Lions will not continue, but if the powers that be just look at the video of this game and the fans, then they must come up with a solution for the future. There has to be a place for the Lions in the proposed global calendar.

At the beginning of the second half the All Blacks adjusted to having only 14 and it looked like they would take advantage of every dumb penalty the Lions contrived to give away.

There were heroes in red all over the park though – AWJ really stepped up and Maro Itoje and Sean O’Brien were everywhere – Gatland’s decision to bring back Sam Warburton was also fully justified. The one player who will be ruing some of his decisions in open play will be Mako Vunipola – he will have to be more careful next week if he starts.

The players matched the whoops of the fans at the final whistle but everyone knows that it will be a monster task next week at Eden Park.

I am chuffed for the fans – they go into the game at Eden Park next week with the chance of seeing history. There were few travelling fans in 1971 – so they will need to play their part and to roar the squad on.

Beauden Barrett has to be mentioned – last week he picked up a ball one handed on the run – this week he had a kick charged down and beat everyone to the ball, evaded the cover and launched an attack – he was the coolest guy on the park. Thank god he missed some kicks!

Both Kieran Read and Steve Hansen were magnanimous in their praise of the Lions after the game, although it was only the celebrating Lions fans, who had stayed to cheer the team, who heard them.

It turns out that those who said that the Lions had to win the first test or face 3-0 were wrong – I know, I was one of them.

I have rarely been glad to be so wrong!

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