Lions buried under NZ tidal wave
RIEKO Ioane scored a brace of tries as the All Blacks went into overdrive in the second half to set up a comprehensive 30-15 win that left the British and Irish Lions lamenting earlier missed chances.
Although the Lions had enough chances that they wasted in the first 50 minutes and could have been ahead at that point had they taken them, those who watch the All Blacks often will know how strong they get in the last half hour of a game..
The Lions got in the first attack of the game and the All Blacks looked a bit stunned as they only just managed to force the Lions out in the corner in the early minutes, but for the rest of the first half it was the Lions who had to do most of the tackling.
New Zealand dominated the collisions and got their off-load game working.
There was a lot of scrambling defence from the Lions, and after 21 minutes they had already been forced to make 57 tackles.
That was going to catch up with them in the end, and the halftime stat was 81 tackles by the Lions and 42 from the All Blacks.
With the Kiwis renowned for their ability to lift the tempo later and sustain the pace longer than any opponent, you could have taken poison at that point that the home team would win the first match of a threegame rubber.
However, the Lions for a while looked like they might just make a game of it thanks to some slippery running from their backline, with fullback Liam Williams proving particularly dangerous.
The All Black backline had lost first fullback Ben Smith in the first quarter to concussion and then centre Ryan Crotty to a leg injury.
It led to one of the finest tries scored in any Lions series, with Williams managing to evade a tackle and escape probable peril near his own line in the 35th minute.
He then set up an attacking interplay down the left touchline in which outside centre Jonathan Davies featured strongly.
It was the Welshman’s strength in the tackle that enabled him to swivel the off-load that led to flanker Sean O’Brien’s try.
The All Blacks had been leading 13-3 at that point and threatening to take control, so although Owen Farrell missed the conversion, the Lions would have been happy to go into the break just five points down (13-8).
The visitors could easily have taken the lead shortly after halftime as suddenly their attacking game started to find its accuracy, but on the night, apart from that first half score from O’Brien, they did waste too many opportunities during the stage that the game was still a contest.
The big turning point in the game came in the 55th minute, with Kieran Read showing sublime skill in the way he picked up the ball at the base of a dominant advancing scrum and then sent Israel Dagg through to set up the score in the corner for Ioane.
The conversion made it 20-8 and it was a long way back from there for the Lions against a team renowned for their strong finish.
There was a try to Rhys Webb right at the end that brought a bit of respectability to the final score, but it was no more than a consolation effort as the Lions were well beaten long before then.
In reality the All Blacks, until they cruised in the last five minutes and let in that unnecessary consolation score, were all over the Lions in the last half hour.
It certainly looked like it might get ugly for the Lions when Ioane profited from a fortunate bounce to power through for the third All Black try to make it 30-8 with not much less than a quarter of an hour remaining.-AFP