The British and Irish Lions and world champions New Zealand fought out a drawn Test series after they shared the spoils 15-15 at Eden Park on Saturday. What did learn from the encounter?
A DRAWN FINALE LEFT A HOLLOW FEELING
It was perhaps the result that nobody expected, but it was always a possibility once New Zealand had wasted a number of try-scoring chances and the Lions kept themselves within touching distance. In the end, Owen Farrell’s late penalty tied things up, but it was a strange sight seeing Lions skipper Sam Warburton and his All Blacks counterpart Kieran Read each holding the trophy aloft and players from both teams sat together on the presentation stage. Maybe 10 minutes each way of extra-time should have been etched in for the third Test before the tour began, but it was not to be.
WARREN GATLAND WILL LEAVE NEW ZEALAND WITH HIS REPUTATION ENHANCED
New Zealander Gatland has already achieved a lot in his coaching career, steering Wales to a World Cup semi-final - at Eden Park - winning Six Nations titles, Grand Slams and enjoying domestic and European success with Wasps. With limited preparation time, Gatland managed to mould a squad into one that pushed the world champions every inch of the way, and when the dust settles, a drawn series in New Zealand is not to be sneezed at. Far from it.
SAM WARBURTON IS A MODEL LEADER - ON AND OFF THE PITCH
Wales star Warburton, Lions captain for the last two tours, once again led from the front. He was outstanding in the second and third Tests, and at 28, he is arguably at the peak of his powers. The next Lions tour to South Africa in 2021 might not be on his horizon at present, but the former Wales skipper has secured a permanent place in Lions folklore. Tough as teak on the field, articulate and mild-mannered off it, he is a role model par excellence.
OWEN FARRELL HAS A TEMPERAMENT MADE OF STEEL
England ace Farrell endured a miserable opening quarter to the series decider, making mistakes and taking wrong options as the Lions desperately tried to settle into a contest New Zealand easily dominated early on. Things got gradually better, yet his goalkicking remained the one consistent aspect of his game, and when the time came - with barely two minutes left - he stepped up to boot the penalty that secured a draw from just inside New Zealand’s half. He also won the match in Wellington with a similar kick seven days’ previously. When it comes to temperament, he is in a different class.
THE BRITISH AND IRISH LIONS’ FUTURE MUST BE SECURE
There are those, incredibly, who are seemingly intent on watering down the Lions. Fewer games, shorter tours - perhaps no tours at all - yet they remain a sporting phenomenon. For six weeks or so every four years, this remarkable machine cranks into life to take on either New Zealand, South Africa or Australia, and quite often, produces the goods. Anyone who doubts the Lions should have been in New Zealand over the past six weeks, like their many thousands of fans who spent a small fortune following them around the North and South Islands and would not have missed it for the world. The Lions’ roar has not been silenced.