The British and Irish Lions beat New Zealand 21-24 at Westpac Stadium in Wellington, ending a 14-year unbeaten record at the Cake Tin, while keeping the Kiwis try-less for the first time in three years.
The tourists scored two tries through Taulupe Faletau and Conor Murray and Owen Farrell kicked the match-winning penalty with three minutes remaining to earn the win.
The game turned on 25 minutes when Sonny Bill Williams was red-carded for a dangerous tackle on Anthony Watson.
However, it was the Lions’ ill-discipline and the tactical smarts of Steve Hanson and his coaching staff to re-organise their team to play a man down for 55 minutes.
Beauden Barrett kicked seven penalties but missed three which ultimately, proved costly.
Charlie Faumuina was harshly pinged for taking out a (jumping) player in the air, allowing Farrell to kick the winner.
The game was played in typical Wellington weather, with the rain pouring down for most of the game which caused problems for the kickers.
Barrett and Farrell traded penalties inside 25 minutes before Sonny Bill’s madness. The second five eight did not use his arms when attempting a tackle on Watson, hitting him in the head with his shoulder.
French referee Jérôme Garcès had no option to send him off, although, there have been many similar shots where players have only been yellow carded; this was, however, the right call.
Hanson and his team decided to take off Jerome Kaino and keep their backline at its full quota. Strangely, the Kiwis had much of the dominance in the scrum.
Both teams played the weather; looking to play for territory. Farrell and Barrett continued to kick goals, however, Barrett was not always firing, which would prove costly at the end.
The half-time score was level at 9-all, but the Kiwis came out flying in the second period. Conversely, the Lions ill-discipline was giving the Hurricanes’ first five opportunities to extend his team’s lead.
Barrett kicked two penalties before Mako Vunipolo, who was having a meltdown, was yellow carded and the New Zealanders took a nine-point 18-9 lead going into the final quarter.
Their scrum was getting the better of the tourists’ set piece as the Lions were frustrated by some of the referee’s calls.
However, with the All Blacks tiring, Taulupe Faletau scored in the corner after running over Israel Dagg. Farrell missed the conversion, but Warren Gatland’s men had some momentum.
Waisake Naholo went off after failing an HIA. Aaron Cruden came on at first five eight, Barrett went to the left wing and Rieko Ioane to the right.
Soon after Vunipolo returned, Barrett extended the All Blacks’ lead to 21-14 with his seventh penalty goal of the evening.
Three minutes’ later, the Lions scored their second try of the game. It came from Jamie George’s break into the 22. The ball was recycled quickly, and the Irish scrumhalf dived over with two All Blacks on his shirt.
The initial ball to the hooker came from Murray, who was outstanding, proving again, that he is one of the world’s premier No 9s. The Irishman also scored when Ireland beat the All Blacks in Chicago last year.
Farrell’s conversion levelled the scores at 21-all. With nine minutes left, the Kiwis were wilting under the red wave that kept coming.
They had their opportunities before Faumuina was pinged for tackling the man in the air. Farrell could not miss from in front and the Lions had a three-point lead with time running out.
Another attack by the All Blacks came to nought after Cruden kicked a cross-kick, which was not gathered. From there, the Lions ground down the clock before Murray booted the ball into the stands.
This was a famous victory and the New Zealand Herald might have to rethink their next depiction of Gatland as a clown.
Final Score: All Blacks 21 (9) British and Irish Lions 24 (9)
Pen – Barrett (7)
Cards – Sonny Bill Williams (Red, 25th minute)
British and Irish Lions
Tries – Faletau, Murray
Pen – Farrell (3)
Con – Farrell
Cards – Mako Vunipola (Yellow, 56th minute)
Referee: Jérôme Garcès (France)
Assistant 1: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant 2: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)
New Zealand All Blacks
15 Israel Dagg, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody.
Replacements: 16 Nathan Harris, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Scott Barrett, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Aaron Cruden, 23 Ngani Laumape.
British and Irish Lions: 15 Liam Williams, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Owen Farrell, 11 Elliot Daly, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Sean O’Brien, 6 Sam Warburton (captain), 5 Alun Wyn Jones, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Jamie George, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 Courtney Lawes, 20 Christiaan Stander, 21 Rhys Webb, 22 Ben Te’o, 23 Jack Nowell.