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Alas, this triumphant mood soon dissolved with fortuity siding with the hosts when Liam Williams failed to catch a high ball, which fell into the arms of young newcomer Rieko Ioane who, with blistering pace, went on to score the nail in the coffin.
When the second test came around, therefore, the commentariat believed again that the Lions had no chance; the All Blacks only ever get better and better with each progressive game in a season. Then the Lions won. But was it a glorious win? Not in the slightest. In fact, contrary to popular opinion, this game was more of an exhibition of the grit and brilliance of the All Black side than that of the Lions. A red card, at any level of the game, should – and rightly very often does – end in the opposing team winning; they should always have the numbers. So for the Lions to only come away from that game winning by three points is somewhat of a loss. To me, they played better for the first sixty minutes of the first test than the entirety of the second. For a top-tier team, not in the least one of the top two teams in the world, it should not take until the 65th minute to realise that an opposing side with 14 men is weak on the outside and on the wings. Only when the Lions realised that this was their only real chance of an attacking threat did they not only gain ground but also score tries. This was by far a better game for the Lions upon their realisation rather than their perverse tactic of kicking away possession to the most dominant attacking team the world has ever seen.
But it doesn’t matter. A win is a win during a test series, and now the fans have what they’ve always wanted but never really expected – a decider. The Lions have the opportunity to make history, not only for the tradition and for the jersey, but for world rugby. For too long now the All Blacks have sat at the throne of the sport of rugby (deservedly so, I might add), with the gulf between them and the opposition often looking like men against boys. A back to back win against the All Blacks in Eden Park, their supposed fortress where they haven’t lost a game since 1994, sends a clear message to other teams that the All Blacks are not without chinks in their armour. It seems unlikely, given the infamous ‘Black-lash’ of a New Zealand defeat, but a Lions win is what is needed, and, frankly, nothing else will do.
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