Lions tour: Five things we learned in Wellington

New Zealand's Sonny Bill Williams, (centre left, is shown a red card by match referee Jerome Garces. Picture: David Davies/PA
New Zealand's Sonny Bill Williams, (centre left, is shown a red card by match referee Jerome Garces. Picture: David Davies/PA
Share this article
4
Have your say

1 The statistics scream from the page: The Lions’ success not only set up a series decider in Auckland next Saturday, it gave them one of the greatest victories. It was the first time for 24 years that the Lions have beaten New Zealand, while the All Blacks’ loss was their first on home soil since South Africa toppled them eight years ago, ending a 46-match unbeaten run. If the Lions triumph at Eden Park in six days’ time, it will deliver a first series victory over New Zealand since 1971.

2 Referee Jerome Garces produced a quality performance under pressure: The French official handled the 25th-minute Sonny Bill Williams incident magnificently. Once he had seen television replays, he had no doubt intent was there from the All Blacks centre after he shoulder-charged Lions wing Anthony Watson in the face. Even when the television match official asked Garces did he want to see it again as he walked back towards the players, Garces had already made his mind up. It was the right call.

3 The Lions got physical – and it worked: Head coach Warren Gatland has received his fair share of criticism during the New Zealand tour, but he got it exactly right in selection and through his preparation for the second Test. Calling up flanker Sam Warburton and lock Maro Itoje proved to be the right calls, while Gatland also challenged the pack to increase their level of physicality after a tame showing in the first Test. His players responded to the rallying cry and now it is all systems go for Eden Park, where New Zealand are unbeaten since 1994.

4 The Lions can expect a huge response from New Zealand: New Zealand do not lose many Tests, and they have not lost two in a row since 2011, so their motivation to make amends for Wellington will be off the scale.

5 Lions fans are the tourists’ 16th man: Lions supporters turned the Westpac Stadium red with a remarkable turn-out. Not even the heavy rain could dampen their spirits, as they sang and sang from first whistle to last, almost turning it into a home game for their heroes.