Jim Kayes has been covering rugby since the late 1990s across print/online, radio and television with The Dominion Post, Stuff.co.nz, TV3 and Newshub, Radio Live and Radio Sport. He's been to five World Cups, covered almost 200 All Blacks Tests and was on safari with the Lions when the British and Irish side last toured New Zealand, in 2005.Read more exclusive columns
Jim Kayes: The Lions deserved their win
Jim Kayes 02 Jul 2017 Getty Images
Some, apparently about 70 of them, missed flights back to Auckland after the match, preferring instead to stay in Wellington and celebrate. The lack of accommodation and a new flight north were things to sort out later.
GO INSIDE THE ALL BLACKS CHANGING ROOM FOLLOWING SECOND LIONS TEST
But Lions skipper Sam Warburton isn’t getting carried away. He insists the win in Wellington is worth only a muted celebration.
“I’m glad we are taking it to Eden Park next week but I genuinely won’t be happy unless we get the series win,” Warburton said after the 24-21 win in the second test to level the series at 1-1.
Warburton talked during the week about the importance of the Lions, how playing for them was the pinnacle of his career and how vital it is that they are retained.
Winning the Test, he knows, is a big part of that. Winning a series, even more so.
The Lions now have that chance and though they were helped by Sonny Bill Williams reckless and careless shoulder charge on Anthony Watson, they still deserved the win.
They kept the All Blacks tryless - the first time that’s happened since the 12-12 draw against Australia in 2014 and even against 14 All Blacks - that takes some doing.
What will frustrate the Lions and coach Warren Gatland is that it took 77 minutes for them to take the lead, despite Williams getting his marching orders in the 24th minute.
But there was plenty he liked about his Lions effort especially the increased physicality at the breakdown, and the character they showed after falling away when Williams was sent off.
It was as if, being a man up, the Lions expected the game to be won, forgetting they still had to work incredibly hard to achieve it.
“18-9 we had to show some character,” Gatland admitted. “It’s a win for us, it keeps the series alive. We are not getting too carried away with it. It’s going to be pretty brutal next week.”
The All Blacks don’t take defeat well. When they lost to Ireland in Chicago last year they thrashed Italy a week later then beat Ireland in Dublin.
When they were beaten 27-19 by Australia in Sydney in 2015 they smashed the Wallabies 41-13 in Auckland a week later.
Ah, Auckland, there is that too. The All Blacks haven't lost there since 1994 and that’s a streak they are proud of and will, it goes without saying, be keen to continue.
“Losing sucks,” All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said to open the post-match press conference, before praising his side’s effort a man down and lauding the Lions for working their way to victory.
He wasn’t happy with how the All Blacks started or finished the match, but had no issue with the red card.
“The red card is a red card, if the ref says it’s a red card you don’t have any say in it.”
Hansen was similarly pragmatic when asked about Lions prop Mako Vunipola’s hit that left Beauden Barrett laid out on the pitch.
“It was one of those ones that could have been a yellow or a red and he chose it was a yellow and you just have to go with that.”
The win gives the Lions the chance to become only the second British and Irish team to win a series against the All Blacks.
Saying that, knowing that, is easier than doing it. Gatland knows that too.
“We take a huge amount of confidence,” from the win he said. “We stepped up physically and we scored some nice trues.
“But we know historically what New Zealand teams are like when they lose and how they respond.”
Or as Hansen said repeatedly after the match - get excited, it’s going to a decider.
Congratulations to @lionsofficial on a hard fought Test match victory. We look forward to the decider at Eden Park next Saturday.#NZLvBIL pic.twitter.com/JQaHfzodcq— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) July 1, 2017