New Zealand 30 - 15 British & Irish Lions: All Backs clinical in win

British and Irish Lions' Liam Williams tries to get past New Zealand's Rieko Ioane. Picture: David Davies/PA Wire.
British and Irish Lions' Liam Williams tries to get past New Zealand's Rieko Ioane. Picture: David Davies/PA Wire.
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Sean O’Brien scored one of the greatest tries in British and Irish Lions history - but world champions New Zealand still won a pulsating first Test in emphatic fashion.

Ireland flanker O’Brien pounced four minutes before half-time, finishing off a spectacular 80-metre move that was started by full-back Liam Williams’ dazzling running.

New Zealand, though, held firm in the face of some outstanding rugby by the Lions as they triumphed 30-15 and made it 39 successive games unbeaten at Eden Park.

Hooker Codie Taylor scored a first-half try, before wing Rieko Ioane added two second-half touchdowns - full Test debutant Ioane’s first try came after a suspicion of a knock-on before All Blacks skipper Kieran Read brilliantly off-loaded possession - while fly-half Beauden Barrett kicked 15 points.

Owen Farrell added a penalty for the Lions, and replacement scrum-half Rhys Webb claimed a try deep into injury time that Farrell converted, but they will now head to Wellington knowing that victory is required next Saturday to keep the three-match series alive.

At times, New Zealand’s speed, awareness and attacking running lines were off the scale, yet the Lions lived with them for much of a memorable encounter.

British and Irish Lions' Taulupe Faletau is dejected after New Zealand's Codie Taylor scored his side's first try. Picture: David Davies/PA Wire.

British and Irish Lions' Taulupe Faletau is dejected after New Zealand's Codie Taylor scored his side's first try. Picture: David Davies/PA Wire.

Williams and his Wales colleague Jonathan Davies were at the attacking heart of thrilling Lions adventure, yet the forwards were given a sometimes torrid time in the scrums, and the All Blacks finished far stronger.

The Lions almost made a dream start, cutting open the New Zealand defence inside two minutes when Davies made a superb break and found scrum-half Conor Murray in support.

Murray was hauled down just short of the line, but possession was then moved wide and wing Elliot Daly looked to have squeezed over in the corner, only to be denied by his opposite number Israel Dagg’s quality defensive work.

The All Blacks appeared rocked, and Murray continued to test them with a number of high kicks, but New Zealand gradually began to find their feet as Barrett drove them into action through a brilliant one-handed pick-up under pressure.

The Lions’ defence held firm, though, and wing Anthony Watson needed all his wits about him as he caught a high ball and then cleared as New Zealand threatened a try, before Barrett made it 3-0 through a 14th-minute penalty.

And matters soon deteriorated for the Lions, as just five minutes later, New Zealand sacrificed a kickable close-range penalty and sent possession wide at a rate of knots before Taylor picked up spectacularly and scored out wide before Barrett kicked an effortless touchline conversion.

At 10 points adrift and struggling to cope with the sheer pace and precision of New Zealand’s handling game, alarm bells were ringing for the tourists following an opening quarter that began so brightly but ended with them firmly on the back foot.

New Zealand suffered a degree of back division disruption - full-back Ben Smith went off for a head injury assessment, while centre Ryan Crotty departed with a leg injury and Anton Lienert-Brown took over - as Farrell and Barrett exchanged penalties.

The Lions needed to stir, but no-one could have predicted their response, which came through a breathtaking score started from deep inside his own half by Williams, whose mesmeric running saw him beat a number of players and leave New Zealand in reverse gear.

Davies was then involved twice in the move, linking initially with Daly, and then giving the scoring delivery to O’Brien and sending the thousands of Lions fans wild.

Farrell could not convert, yet the Lions could have hardly made a more devasatating statement of intent, trooping off 13-8 adrift at half-time, but having shown the All Blacks the full repertoire of their attacking capability.

The Lions almost struck with another wonder score early in the second-half - Wllliams, Davies and Daly were again heavily involved - but New Zealand had just enough in defence to deny them, then Watson set off on a weaving run as the game continued at a relentless pace.

Saracens lock Maro Itoje made his entrance midway through the third quarter, replacing an often out-of-sorts Alun Wyn Jones, with prop Jack McGrath and tour captain Sam Warburton also going on before Ioane’s try effectively sealed the contest.

And when Barrett completed his penalty hat-trick and Ioane claimed his second try, there was no way back for the Lions as the wait for a Test victory over the All Blacks - they last achieved one 24 years ago - goes on.