The British and Irish Lions’ quest for a first Test series triumph against New Zealand since 1971 began in losing fashion at Eden Park.
The Lions’ 30-15 defeat means they have to win next Saturday’s encounter in Wellington to force a series decider seven days later.
Here, Press Association Sport looks at some of the talking points that emerged from the match.
NEW ZEALAND GOT PHYSICAL – AND THE LIONS STRUGGLED TO HANDLE IT
Much had been made during the first Test build-up of the Lions’ set-piece power and physical approach, but it was New Zealand who came up trumps, playing a forceful, direct game. The All Blacks’ confidence emanated from a strong scrum, while in lock Brodie Retallick and number eight Kieran Read they possessed two forwards in majestic form. The Lions will be bruised – physically and mentally – and they have seven days to recover.
MARO ITOJE SHOULD HAVE STARTED FOR THE LIONS
Saracens’ former European player of the year had to be content with a bench role after Lions head coach Warren Gatland said it had been a proverbial “toss of the coin” in selection between England lock Itoje and Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones. Jones got the nod, but he struggled during the first half and eventually made way for Itoje early in the second period. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, yet Itoje would probably have made much more impact from the start.
THE LIONS’ OPENING TRY WILL BE REMEMBERED AS ONE OF THEIR GREATEST
The Lions have scored some memorable tries during their illustrious history, but it is hard to remember many better than the one finished by flanker Sean O’Brien just before half-time at Eden Park. It was started by full-back Liam Williams, who ran brilliantly from deep inside his own half, beating a number of defenders, then the move was taken on at thrilling pace by centre Jonathan Davies and wing Elliot Daly before O’Brien touched down some 80 metres from where Williams began his counter-attack. It was breathtaking, off-the-cuff genius.
KIERAN READ LED FROM THE FRONT ON HIS RETURN FROM INJURY
The All Blacks captain had not played since late April after breaking his thumb on Super Rugby duty with the Crusaders, but it was like he had never been away, such was the impact he made on proceedings. His all-round game was immense, his leadership inspirational and his skills were showcased beautifully by a deft offload that set up one of wing Rieko Ioane’s two tries. He had already been confirmed as a worthy successor to retired World Cup-winning skipper Richie McCaw, and he once again highlighted what a brilliant performer he is.
THE LIONS MUST NOT PANIC
Although New Zealand claimed a comfortable win on the scoreboard, there were times in the game when the Lions genuinely rocked their world champion hosts, especially with ball in hand. The tourists will have to work out a way of combating New Zealand’s physicality, yet they should not be disheartened as they look to regroup on arriving in Wellington on Sunday, where they face the Hurricanes next Tuesday and then New Zealand four days later. There are a lot of twists and turns ahead before this Test series is decided either way.
Know more about Sport360 Application