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.
When the trash talking finally stopped, the All Blacks wrecked the British and Irish Lions’ scrum to dump the tourists’ first Test chances in the dustbin.
Lions boss Warren Gatland had called for an end to the pre-Test series slanging match between the tourists and New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen, demanding the rugby take centre stage.
But when that phoney war did finally stop, a major expected strength of the Lions crumbled at the crux of the Lions’ 30-15 defeat at Eden Park - to hand New Zealand control in the three-Test series.
The All Blacks bulldozed the Lions scrum in the visitors’ 22, Kieran Read flicked masterfully to Aaron Smith, and Rieko Ioane powered into the left corner.
With more than a quarter of the match to play, the back-to-back world champions had already sealed victory - extending their unbeaten run at the Eden Park stronghold to 39 matches.
The Crusaders and the Highlanders had spent their battles with the Lions constantly telling the officials that they had scrum dominance. Their claims could be heard time and again over the referee mics.
The Lions rejected those insistences out of hand, with head coach Gatland even claiming to be unfazed by what was regarded as little more than a campaign to influence refereeing decisions.
Well, New Zealand needed no help whatsoever from the officials when blitzing the Lions not only off the ball - but also out of the match.
The hosts also totally dominated the lineout, and many of the tight exchanges.
Gatland kept on talking about “suffocating” the All Blacks in the build-up, as the Lions had managed in the 12-3 Crusaders win and the 32-10 victory over the Maori.
But the All Blacks were too strong up front, and the Lions curiously blunted.
The Lions conjured some stunning counter-attacking - just as assistant coach Rob Howley had pledged - only to be undone by failing to lay solid tight-game foundations.
Gatland had insisted All Blacks boss Hansen was only talking so much about the tourists because he was “worried” by their threats.
After the home side forced so much dominance up front here, it is the tourists who must be concerned heading into the second Test.
TWEET OF THE MATCH
“Lions had 4 chances and score once. NZ are 3 from 3. There’s the difference #ABvBIL” - former Lions scrum-half Matt Dawson (@matt9dawson).
MOMENT OF THE MATCH
The All Blacks bulldozed the Lions’ scrum - a supposed strength of the tourists - and Kieran Read produced a masterful move at the base of the fast-advancing set-piece. Read lunged for the ball only for the whole scrum to shunt on, so he readjusted, made sure he avoided touching the ball and knocking on - and then flicked a stunning pass off the ground to scrum-half Aaron Smith. Rieko Ioane immediately scored in the corner, sealing the All Blacks’ victory with a quarter of the match to play.
Kieran Read, New Zealand: The peerless number eight’s flick from the scrum won the night. And this was his first game for eight weeks after suffering a broken thumb. If that’s how good he can be when potentially under-cooked, the Lions could be in trouble in next weekend’s second Test.
IS THAT ALL YOU’VE GOT?
All Blacks boss Steve Hansen insisted New Zealand knew everything the Lions could throw at them before the tourists had even arrived in the country. Well, Sean O’Brien’s try disproved that theory. The field-length break, launched by Liam Williams, showed that the Lions can really play. It was not enough here, and might well not suffice across the series. But it will still give the tourists hope.