The Roar
The Roar


Oh, what exquisite drama

Sonny Bill Williams of New Zealand looks back to the field of play as he heads for the changing rooms after receiving a red card. (AAP Image/Dean Pemberton)
Roar Guru
1st July, 2017
4151 Reads

I sent a text to my Auckland-based Eden Park season-ticket-holding brother on the Saturday afternoon prior to that epic All Blacks vs Lions second Test saying.

“A very small part of me wouldn’t mind if the Lions won this Test just to make it interesting.”

That “very small” part of me grew more minuscule by the moment as hypothetical became – inch by dramatic inch – the reality, as the Lions had the final roar to win that phenomenal epic of a Test match to square the series in Wellington’s soggy Caketin last night.

Let’s address the obvious straight away.

Sonny Bill Williams you are a quality human being. You are an absolute freak of an athlete. You are, reportedly, one of the most disciplined of sports people off the field.

And you are a complete and utter numpty. An imbecile to persevere with that ridiculous obsession to display your aggressive intent with shoulder charges that you burst onto the NRL scene with the Bulldogs nearly a decade and a half ago.

Have you not learned anything in the nearly 15 years, change of codes and umpteenth different teams since?

That 25th minute shot on Anthony Watson’s head, held prone in a tackle by Waisake Naholo, with only the hint of an elbow giving any change from a full shoulder attack, was just dumb.


Dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb.


As it happened, the irony was that the prospect of facing a 14-man All Black team spooked the Lions into a sustained period of chaos. It was almost as if the opportunities to inflict real damage against the wounded world champs were suddenly too palpable and they over-did things. Kicked out on the full, overplayed their hand (and feet) at the rucks and generally stuffed up to let the hosts storm back into the contest.

The ABs grew a leg in the crucial minutes following Sonny Bill Williams’s departure, getting their one-off forward running game going to seriously dent the Lions line in the saturated conditions.

There may well be rugby coaching text books written about the reasoning for the ABs taking a seasoned forward destroyer off in Jerome Kaino and replacing him with a back on debut Ngani Laumape, albeit a powerhouse one on his home track.

Sonny Bill Williams New Zealand All Blacks Rugby Union 2017

(AAP Image/Dean Pemberton)

It initially seemed like a masterstroke as the de-powered AB scrum held firm, Laumape just ate up the metres in the close stuff and Beaden Barrett penalised the Lions’ ill discipline and sloppiness with points in increments of three to have the home team ahead 18-9 at the three quarter mark.


Notwithstanding that this was after the Lions lost powerful loosehead Mako Vunipola in the 55th minute, yellow carded for a late hit on Barrett.

 That was fair enough, but not in the context that AB hooker Codie Taylor escaped with an almost replica challenge challenge on Owen Farrell a couple of minutes earlier. 

Jerome Garces 1, Consistency 0.

Then the first of two big moments. At the 62nd minute Irish pivot Johnny Sexton, who had looked threatening in the challenging conditions all night, sets up a lovely wrap around play to unleash Watson on the right wing, and, who’s there to tackle him, none other than a scrambling Barrett.

But it’s not enough to stop the next phase sweeping left for Toby Faletau’s try in the corner.

 Farrell was wide with the conversion but regardless, suddenly the All Blacks doing it by threes off Lions indiscretions might not cut it.

The ABs stormed back with a scrum following a monstrous Elliot Daley over kick dead, with replacement AB five-eighth Aaron Cruden chipping through with the ball just beating four potential AB marauders over the Lions dead ball line. Still, a penalty ensured which Barrett slotted to have his side up 21-14 with 13 to go and looking safe.

Conor Murray British and Irish Lions Rugby Union 2017

(AP Photo/Mark Baker)

The ABs put the Lions restart into touch. Maro Itoje, who was brilliant in the loose and at lineout all night, despite the odd questionable offside, won the deeply thrown lineout.

Two phases later, both featuring replacement prop Kyle Sinckler charging it up, Sexton does his little pass shimmy to send Jamie George rampaging behind the AB lines and into acres of space for the “heads up man” Conor Murray to pick up and scoot over the line for the decisive second try.


Conversion and we’re all tied up at 21-all with ten to go.

It stays that way until the 77th minute and replacement AB prop Charlie Faumuina is desperately unlucky to tackle that man Sinkler, who needed to jump to catch the pass from Murray, in the air .

Penalty from a handy position that Farrell eats up for the winning of the game, 24-21.

Cue shot of a sheepish looking SBW.

As he should be.

So that’s 40,000 Brits and Irish who have cashed in their high yielding hedge funds for this trip of a lifetime with a reason to dispel all regrets and get terribly excited for the last match of the tour.

And for Steve Hansen and all of New Zealand rugby to find no more deserving foe to relinquish their 47-match home winning streak.

And finally, for life to be breathed not just into this Test series, but Lions rugby as a concept. And world rugby to boot.


Now that’s drama with epic consequence.

Bring on Eden Park.