|Second Test, Wellington|
|New Zealand (9) 21|
|Pens: Barrett 7|
|Lions (9) 24|
|Tries: Faletau, Murray Con: Farrell Pens: Farrell 4|
The Lions pulled off one of their great wins to steal a thriller against New Zealand and set up a series decider in Auckland in a week’s time.
When Sonny Bill Williams was red-carded for a shoulder charge on Anthony Watson – the first All Blacks sending off in 50 years – the Lions sensed a wonderful opportunity for a historic upset in Wellington.
At the break it was 9-9, three penalties apiece for Beauden Barrett and Owen Farrell cancelling each other out in the torrential rain and wind.
As the Lions’ own discipline deserted them, Barrett kicked his side into a nine-point lead, Mako Vunipola sin-binned for a late charge on the fly-half, only for Taulupe Faletau to crash over in the right corner and give the Lions hope.
After Barrett’s seventh penalty gave the home side a little daylight once again, Conor Murray’s sniping try and Farrell’s conversion from out wide then levelled it up at 21-21.
And with four minutes to go Charlie Faumuina was penalised for taking the charging Kyle Sinckler out in the air, and Farrell stroked over the critical three points to seal a famous win.
Brave but correct call for Williams red
Not since the legendary Colin Meads in 1967 had a New Zealand player been sent off in a Test match, and never before at home.
But it looked the right decision from French referee Jerome Garces, All Blacks inside centre Williams leading with his right shoulder to the unprotected face of Watson after the winger had gathered the ball in his own 22.
Garces checked with his television match official and then asked to watch the impact once again on the stadium’s big screen.
Yet even the protestations from captain Kieran Read were muted, his team forced to reorganise and replace flanker Jerome Kaino with centre Ngani Laumape as the huge numbers of Lions supporters in the Westpac roared their approval.
First home defeat in eight years
After their 30-15 win in the first Test the All Blacks had been strong favourites to wrap up the series, and when they led 18-9 even with the man disadvantage the Lions’ indiscipline looked to have cost them.
Not since 2009 had New Zealand lost a Test match on home soil, and they will look back with regret at the three kickable penalties missed by Barrett – the world player of the year but whose goal-kicking was singled out before the tour as a potential weakness – as their opponents wobbled horribly.
Warren Gatland’s men conceded 13 penalties as well as Vunipola’s yellow, and they were fortunate to still be in the match when Farrell stepped up for his own fateful chance.
The Lions have only won one series in New Zealand in their history, and if they are to repeat the achievement of their 1971 forbears they will have to improve dramatically in that area.
They will also have to break an even longer unbroken run – not since 1994 have the All Blacks lost at Eden Park – but the opportunity is there, and the occasion will be a huge one.
‘The Lions deserve the win’
Lions head coach Warren Gatland: “Even without the red card we were the better team. It’s great to tie the series up and we go to Auckland next week with a series to play for.
“We need to fix the soft penalties and look at being more accurate in our kicking game.”
New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen: “We didn’t help ourselves by losing a player. Whilst I am proud of our players for playing like that with 14 men, the Lions deserve the win.
“The referee made the call. Whether he called it right or wrong you’ve got to go with what he says.”
Lions captain Sam Warburton: “I’ll be happy next week when we bring the Test series home. We’ve got to win.
“We gave away far too many penalties in the second half. The one disappointing thing was the discipline but to score a try out wide shows we were willing to play a bit.”
Man of the match – Maro Itoje
English lock Itoje, only a replacement a week ago, was a force of nature throughout this epic, the Lions supporters serenading him in song as he left the field and they streamed into the pubs and bars of Wellington
New Zealand: I Dagg; W Naholo, A Lienert-Brown, S B Williams, R Ioane; B Barrett, A Smith; J Moody, C Taylor, O Franks, B Retallick, S Whitelock, J Kaino, S Cane, K Read (capt).
Replacements: N Harris, W Crockett, C Faumuina, S Barrett, A Savea, TJ Perenara, A Cruden, N Laumape.
British and Irish Lions: L Williams (Wales); A Watson (England), J Davies (Wales), O Farrell (England), E Daly (England); J Sexton (Ireland), C Murray (Ireland); M Vunipola (England), J George (England), T Furlong (Ireland), M Itoje (England), A W Jones (Wales), S Warburton (Wales, capt), S O’Brien (Ireland), T Faletau (Wales).
Replacements: K Owens (Wales), J McGrath (Ireland), K Sinckler (England), C Lawes (England), CJ Stander (Ireland), R Webb (Wales), B Te’o (England), J Nowell (England).
Referee: Jerome Garces (France).
Assistant referees: Romain Poite (France) and Jaco Peyper (South Africa).