Moment of Madness
By Roger Childs
With a shoulder barge into the face of Lions winger Anthony Watson, Sonny Bill Williams gifted the second test to the Lions. It was an act of stupidity which left the All Blacks with 14 men for three quarters of the game.
A good team will always beat opponents with one player down, however the Lions made heavy weather of it in the heavy weather. The madness of their prop, Mako Vunipola, in twice trying to take Beauden Barrett out of the game, didn’t help either, as he received 10 minutes in the bin.
In the end two late tries brought the visitors to level pegging at 21 all, and a fortuitous penalty 3 minutes from time saw the Lions home.
.Sonny Bill Williams: myth and reality
Williams made his name on the rugby league circuit in Australia and when he came over to rugby in New Zealand he became famous for the “off-load” pass. But he was not God’s gift to rugby, even though All Blacks coaches worshiped at his shrine.
He played well in patches for Super rugby teams and for the All Blacks, but was never in the class of Ma’a Nonu or Conrad Smith.
He was picked in the run-on All Black team in Auckland and had a mixed game. Many pundits would have put Anton Lienert-Brown or Malakai Fekitoa in ahead of him. After his disastrous performance last evening, he probably won’t be featuring in the national team for the rest of the year.
Due to appear before the judiciary shortly he is likely to be banned for at least four weeks.
The Lions get there in the end
Early on the two teams had traded penalties, but with Williams red carded it would only be a matter of time before the visitors cruised to victory. However the All Blacks defended well and to Warren Gatland’s dismay the visitors made constant errors, and ill-discipline in getting off-side and slowing the ball down in rucks allowed Beauden Barrett to keep the scoreboard ticking over.
Could the home team hold on? It looked like it until deep in the second half. However, with 15 minutes to go the Lions scored a superb try on the left flank when Taulupe Faletau dived over in the corner after a slick passing movement.
Then with the Lions restored to 15 men, half back Connor Murray scored their second try running through a yawning gap in the All Black defence. Where was TJ Perenara? A Lions forward in the ruck was hanging on to his foot, an incident the referee should have checked with the TMO.
This brought the scores level at 21 apiece. The All Blacks continued to defend well and Charlie Faumuina was unlucky to be pinged for tackling player in the air who was receiving a pass. Owen Farrell made no mistake with the kick and the Lions were home.
All on in Auckland
So the teams go to Auckland next Saturday with everything to play for. Sonny Bill won’t be featuring and this gives Hurricane Ngani Laumape his chance in the centres. He played well coming off the bench last night tackling strongly and getting over the advantage line on the few occasions he had the ball in hand.
The red army will have been delighted with last night’s victory, and the result has revived the tour after it looked as if the All Blacks would get a clean sweep in the tests.
Next Saturday’s match should be compelling viewing.