It was a forlorn scene as the Lions traipsed round the field, acknowledging the thousands of red-clad supporters who had retained the faith in saluting their heroes no matter the damning evidence of the Eden Park scoreboard. The fans, soaked by the sluicing rain but not subdued, clung to the romance of the experience. The players themselves, crestfallen and chastened, knew better. This was not a fairy-tale but a recurring nightmare. You compete, you contest, but you are simply blown away by the clinical execution of the opposition. It wasn’t that the Lions were inept. It was that the outcome had a sense of inevitability about it.  This was a lap of deep reflection for the Lions. The honour belonged to the All Blacks.

The Lions had been given a master-class in finishing.  They had created decent opportunities but they had failed to get across the line, the Liam Williams-inspired rabbit-out-of-the-hat touchdown by Sean O’Brien in the 36th minute notwithstanding as well as a late effort from Rhys Webb. O’Brien’s try was the exception on the night, a lone example of boldness getting its reward through poise at the crunch moment allied to good support play. It was a rage against the dying of the light but darkness still fell on the Lions.

The Lions will rue their rashness, converting only one from four gilt-edge opportunities, (excepting Webb’s effort), the All Blacks meanwhile hitting a perfect return on their sorties towards the try-line, rookie wing, Rieko Ioane getting two tries, hooker Codie Taylor the other. That was Ioane’s first start while Taylor is not normally first choice. Such riches. Such prowess. Scary.  

Throughout the tour, the Lions’ Achilles heel has been their finishing.  They have created but they haven’t converted the chances. The All Blacks are the most potent side in the world in the red zone, an area that extends the length of the pitch as far as they are concerned, while the Lions have left tries out there right throughout the tour. The All Blacks, by contrast, delivered, the man in black with the cold-eyed ability of the assassin. One shot is all that they need.

Rieko Ioane scored the All Blacks' second try

Rieko Ioane scored the All Blacks’ second try

There were other frailties in the Lions’ game. Their discipline was wayward, their error-count under duress too high and their concentration levels variable. Elliot Daly was caught napping out wide on the left for Taylor’s straightforward try from Aaron Smith’s eagle-eyed tap penalty. “I was in no man’s land,” was Daly’s apology to his teammates at half-time.

But there are deeper concerns than mere lapses in focus. In the macho posturing that attends such north versus south battles, it is often claimed that European teams have the whip hand when it comes to forward play. If there was one match that proved that such a theory was bunkum it was this one. The All Black front five ( if hooker Dane Coles is fit) stands on a par with any of recent times. The locking combination of Sam Whitelock and Brodie Retallick is without equal. Retallick was a colossus on the night, challenging, relentless, ever-present.

Sean O'Brien's try

Sean O’Brien scored a cracking try for Lions

The Lions were bested and beasted at the breakdown. They were also sucker-punched in and around the narrow confines of the base, where the All Blacks drove hard and often off Aaron Smith. It was a ploy to negate the aggressive line speed of the Lions in defence. And it worked to a tee. You might argue that the All Blacks were right on the edge of legality in the way they smashed forward. And you would be right. To suggest that referee, Jaco Peyper, was lenient is to miss the essence of this elevated level of competition. You push the parameters and you make it happen for you. The All Blacks did that in Dublin in November after defeat in Chicago. Pressure does not cripple them, it energises them. They sure as hell did not want to be associated with ‘negative history,’ as former All Black wing, John Kirwan, terms it, the first All Black side to lose at Eden Park in 23 years.  

They had some big performers on the night. Sam Cane put in a shift that was reminiscent of the man before him in the No 7 shirt, Richie McCaw, while scrum-half, Aaron Smith, that quicksilver, ever-alert figure, was the perfect man to set New Zealand’s game plan into motion, his tap penalty in the 17th minute leading to the Taylor try.  There is no more aware scrum-half in the world, popping passes, finding close support, helping set the Lions back on their heels. The vaunted aggressive defence was put in its box.   

Kieran Read thanks the Eden Park crowd

Kieran Read thanks the Eden Park crowd

Credit:
Getty Images

And then there was Kieran Read. The All Black No 8 has become just the sort of go-to leader that his predecessor Richie McCaw was: selfless, rugged and wholly committed despite the fact that he had not played for seven weeks with a thumb injury. It looked as if he had never been away. Read’s flick up to Aaron Smith at a dominant All Black scrum in the 55th minute sent his team on their way to the try-line again, rookie Rieko Ioane, diving in at the corner. Slick, unfussy, devastatingly effective.

The Lions did have their upbeat periods. They ought to have made better use of a first minute upfield bust by Jonathan Davies, a potent of things to come. They also began the second-half at a rattle but again could not deal on two more promising situations, not getting across the line and also getting turned over.

Beauden Barrett was in terrific form for the All Blacks

Beauden Barrett was in terrific form for the All Blacks

The Williams coup de theatre will be seared in many a memory bank, the full-back taking a tricky inside ball from Anthony Watson and going for broke. Past one, past two, and on and on. Jonathan Davies was in support, the centre feeding Daly who leaned in and then out, back infield, and just as Davies was gang-tackled, there was Sean O’Brien in support to score.

It was a length-of-the-field sequence, in the style of the 1973 Barbarians.

Williams, though, was to show the flip side of his game with a blooper under the high ball in the 69th minute, Ioane profiting as he streaked clear. Webb got a try on the final whistle. It was scant consolation. The Lions had been well-beaten.      

Warburton replaced O'Mahony in the second half

Warburton replaced O’Mahony in the second half
10:49AM

Some of the best shots from Eden Park

10:43AM

The worst might still be to come for the Lions…

10:34AM

Full-time analysis


Lions Bulletin: Full Time


Lions Bulletin: Full Time


31:16


10:31AM

All Blacks skipper (and superhuman) Kieran Read to Sky

“Our defence after half-time maybe won us the game. We had our opportunity and we took it.”

10:29AM

Early thoughts of Peter O’Mahony to Sky Sports

“I thought we had an excellent first half and created plenty of chances. We have to recover, regroup and move on now.”

10:27AM

Full-time | New Zealand 30-15 Lions

Owen Farrell knocks over the conversion and that is full-time. The Lions will have to go to Wellington and win to keep the series alive.

10:26AM

Try, Rhys Webb! New Zealand 30-13 Lions, 81 minutes

That’s a consolation. Webb darts once, gets stopped. The Lions recycle. Webb dummies and darts again. He’s over.

10:24AM

80 minutes

Sexton goes to the corner.

10:24AM

79 minutes

The Lions win a scrum penalty. Their first – with 30 seconds remaining. 

10:23AM

The crux

10:23AM

77 minutes

The Lions maul edges forward a few metres. Davies gets a run and Sexton and Farrell attempt a run-around play. Barrett almost snaffles an interception but, mercifully for the Lions, the ball hits the floor. Scrum to the Lions on New Zealand 22.

10:21AM

76 minutes

Kieran Read comes off. He has been humongous. 

10:21AM

75 minutes

New Zealand overthrow their lineout and the Lions win a penalty in midfield. Sexton goes to touch again. 

10:19AM

74 minutes

The Lions sack the New Zealand driving maul illegally. All of a sudden, the All Blacks are into the Lions 22 again.

10:18AM

73 minutes

Besides everything else, New Zealand scramble so well. TJ Perenara races across as the Lions spread it left and wins a penalty on the floor. Superb from the scrum-half.

10:17AM

72 minutes

Beauden Barrett is taken out in the air by Taulupe Faletau from the restart. The All Blacks miss touch, so Anthony Watson runs it back and Kyle Sinckler trucks the Lions into the All Blacks half.

10:15AM

Try, Rieko Ioane! New Zealand 30-8 Lions, 69 minutes 

Game over. TJ Perenara hooks a box-kick into the air and the Lions let it drop. Ioane flies through, picks the ball up and glides past Elliot Daly under the posts. Beauden Barrett has another conversion.

10:13AM

69 minutes

The Lions have another lineout on the New Zealand 22 but the attack breaks down…

10:12AM

68 minutes

And Sam Whitelock steals it ahead of George Kruis! TJ Perenara is charged down, but that’s a body blow for the Lions.

10:12AM

67 minutes

Fantastic touch-finder from Sexton. The Lions are inside the New Zealand 22. Rhys Webb and Ken Owens come on. The Lions need a try here. Now.

10:11AM

66 minutes

Aaron Cruden hits Sexton hard on the gain-line but the Lions have a penalty advantage. It was Sam Cane with an off-the-ball block.

10:09AM

65 minutes

Codie Taylor’s throw skews off the straight. Scrum to the Lions just short of their 10-metre line. 

10:08AM

63 minutes

Beauden Barrett goes close and Anton Lienert-Brown nearly squeezes over but he knocks on, so we come back for an All Blacks penalty. They go to the corner after a consultation, but Maori Itoje nabs the lineout!  

10:06AM

62 minutes

The Lions are forcing it now, and Owen Farrell’s pass drops short of Anthony Watson. New Zealand are into the Lions 22 again…and they have a penalty advantage. 

10:04AM

Penalty, Beauden Barrett! New Zealand 23-8 Lions, 61 minutes

He does. 

10:04AM

60 minutes

Sexton is caught offside. A big tackle from Maro Itoje stops the All Blacks attack, but Barrett should make it a 15-point lead.

10:02AM

59 minutes

New Zealand nab the lineout now and are within seven metres. Another score kills off this game.

10:01AM

58 minutes

A break here. Tadhg Furlong is coming off for Kyle Sinckler.

9:59AM

57 minutes

Sexton’s first contribution is to make a tackle on a runaway Sonny Bill Williams. New Zealand get over the gain-line, though, and Barrett stabs through a clever grubber.

9:58AM

Conversion, Beauden Barrett! New Zealand 20-8 Lions, 56 minutes 

Fantastic kick from Barrett. Aaron Smith is off for the All Blacks, replaced by TJ Perenara. Jonathan Sexton is on too, with Ben Te’o making way for the Lions. Warren Gatland is chasing the game with two playmakers.

9:56AM

Try, Rieko Ioane! New Zealand 18-8 Lions, 55 minutes

Rieko Ioane is over! New Zealand smashed the Lions at the scrum, winning  a scrum advantage. Then a miracle offload from Kieran Read set away the New Zealand backline. Cruden finds Ioane on the left touchline and his pace is electric. 

We need a look at Read’s pass – it did look like he might have spilled it – but it was just breathtakingly good.

9:53AM

Ref mic

“We’ve gotta go, we’ve gotta go, we’ve gotta go.”

Jamie George there at an important scrum.

9:52AM

54 minutes

Peter O’Mahony makes way for Sam Warburton. He’d been struggling for a couple of phases.

9:51AM

Big Vern

He’s watching. Phew.

9:50AM

53 minutes

Oooosh. Noise goes up as an All Blacks pass goes loose and Elliot Daly races onto it, but the touch-judge spots a Lions knock-on.

9:50AM

52 minutes

Still New Zealand keep the ball. Still the Lions hold firm. 

9:48AM

51 minutes

That’s the first tactical replacement. Mako Vunipola makes way for Jack McGrath.

9:48AM

50 minutes

The Lions defence looks secure during a long period of New Zealand possession. Then the All Blacks poke through a grubber, though, and Liam Williams can only slice into touch.

9:47AM

49 minutes

Liam Williams chases his own up and under and Maro Itoje makes his first tackle. The Lions pin New Zealand in their own half for a while but then the All Blacks recover an Aaron Smith high ball.

9:45AM

48 minutes

The rain is coming down now. The scrum goes down but Peyper allows the Lions to play it. Owen Farrell kicks long and Beauden Barrett responds. Lions lineout close to halfway.

9:43AM

47 minutes

The two Aarons, Smith and Cruden, play a gorgeous one-two to bring the Lions over halfway. The All Blacks bring the ball right and it goes down. 

Here comes Maro Itoje…Alun Wyn Jones is off.

9:41AM

46 minutes

Jerome Kaino is off now. Ardie Savea comes on. 

9:40AM

45 minutes

New Zealand complete turnover and Israel Dagg boots it clear, but back comes Anthony Watson! The Bath man slices through but his offload goes to the floor. This Test is a wild ride.

9:39AM

44 minutes

The Lions lose the lineout but then win back a turnover . They are within five metres…

9:39AM

43 minutes

Liam Williams is having a whale of a game. He sparks another thrilling counter with Jonathan Davies and gets the ball back five metres out. The Lions recycle and Kieran Read is offside. Yellow card? Don’t be silly. 

9:37AM

42 minutes

The Lions run the ball from deep, with Te’o in the action once more. Jonathan Davies then goes down-town.

9:36AM

41 minutes

Sonny Bill Williams is SMASHED by Ben Te’o! But it’s a penalty lifting above the horizontal. New Zealand go to touch…and the Lions have won it back.

9:34AM

Second half

Got your breath back? Had a coffee top-up? We’re going again. Elliot Daly chases Owen Farrell’s restart and almost gets there! Scrum to New Zealand inside their own 22.

9:29AM

Former All Blacks captain Sean Fitzpatrick on the first half…

“We said they’re potentially the best two teams in the world, and we’ve definitely seen that. An outstanding Test match.”

9:28AM

All Blacks in control of the ball

New Zealand leading those key categories of possession and territory, with 57 and 59 percent respectively.

9:26AM

Local approval for that cracking Lions try

9:24AM

Half-time analysis


Lions Bulletin Live:  Half Time


Lions Bulletin Live: Half Time


25:00


9:22AM

Half-time | New Zealand 13-8 Lions

New Zealand spill and Conor Murray kicks the ball out. Breathless.

9:22AM

39 minutes

This is so frenetic. New Zealand are into the Lions 22 through Brodie Retallick but Ben Te’o comes in with a monstrous tackle.

9:21AM

38 minutes

The Lions are cooking now. There is real energy in their phase play. But a carrier gets isolated and New Zealand will end the half with the ball…

9:18AM

Try, Sean O’Brien! New Zealand 13-8 Lions, 37 minutes

That is one of the great Lions tries. Liam Williams starts it all off inside his own 22, scything through the middle. He links with Jonathan Davies, who releases Elliot Daly. Sean O’Brien is storming up on the inside and goes over! That is such an important response for the Lions.

Owen Farrell misses the conversion, but the tourists have a big boost.

9:16AM

34 minutes

Ben Smith will not be coming back, we hear. Meanwhile, Beauden Barrett takes a Murray box-kick.

9:15AM

Penalty, Beauden Barrett | New Zealand 13-3 Lions, 33 minutes 

That has all come from the recovered restart. I think it was Brodie Retallick who got up to win it.

9:14AM

32 minutes

Ryan Crotty is coming off, with Anton Lienert-Brown – superb last week against Samoa – replacing him.

9:13AM

31 minutes

New Zealand win back Cruden’s restart and Read surges through, releasing an offload that brings New Zealand into the 22. Tadhg Furlong then cannot roll away quick enough, so it’s  another All Blacks penalty.

9:11AM

Penalty, Owen Farrell | New Zealand 10-3 Lions, 30 minutes

On the half hour, Farrell pulls the Lions back to within a score.

9:10AM

29 minutes

The Lions go off the top and Anthony Watson cuts back against the grain. New Zealand do not roll away quickly enough, so Owen Farrell will go for the posts.

9:10AM

28 minutes

Very interesting play from Israel Dagg. He takes the ball at first receiver and aims a cross-kick over to Rieko Ioane. It just sails into touch, though. Here comes the Lions lineout maul, which wins a penalty…

…Owen Farrell finds Elliot Daly with a cross-kick on the advantage. The England wing scampers clear but the ball is loose. We go back for the penalty.

9:08AM

27 minutes

Ben Smith is going off for a head injury assessment, which means a re-jig for New Zealand. Aaron Cruden is on at fly-half with Beauden Barrett dropping back to full-back.

9:07AM

26 minutes

Mako Vunipola wins a turnover and the Lions have an opening but Alun Wyn Jones drops the ball in midfield…New Zealand threaten on turnover ball and then Tadhg Furlong charges down Aaron Smith. He’s knocked it on according to Jaco Peyper, so it’s a scrum to New Zealand.

9:05AM

25 minutes 

A lenghty pause as Jamie George receives treatment. He’s fine though, and throws the lineout. 

9:03AM

24 minutes

Conor Murray kicks down-field now and Elliot Daly hares after Beauden Barrett. Barrett offloads to Dagg, though, and New Zealand clean up a sticky situation.

9:03AM

23 minutes

New Zealand hit touch on the 10-metre line and Read takes Taylor’s throw. Sean O’Brien hits Sonny Bill Williams and forces the ball loose…

9:01AM

22 minutes

It’s been a frenetic opening but amid the tension, New Zealand’s class is really showing. 

9:00AM

21 minutes

New Zealand get a nudge on the Lions’ put-in and Owen Farrell is clobbered by Sonny Bill Williams. Lions recycle though, and Murray goes to the air. Ben Smith spills and Sean O’Brien grabs the ball, but Sam Cane is over him to win a penalty.

8:59AM

Valid question

8:59AM

20 minutes

The Lions need a response…but Sam Cane isn’t feeling generous. He strips the ball from George Kruis. Barrett spills under a heavy hit from Ben Te’o, so the Lions will have a scrum.

8:57AM

Try, Codie Taylor! New Zealand 10-0 Lions, 19 minutes

That’s why they’re champions. Aaron Smith scents blood and taps quickly to give the All Blacks a chance against a Lions defence that is scrambling. New Zealand spread the ball left and hooker Taylor scoops the ball of his toes from Israel Dagg…

…then Barrett adds the extras from the touchline.

8:55AM

16 minutes

The speed of New Zealand’s ruck ball is rapid and the Lions concede a penalty for not rolling away quick enough….

8:55AM

15 minutes

So slick from New Zealand. Ben Smith dances them over the gain-line and then they flood through in support, crossing the Lions 22 with some deft interplay.

8:53AM

14 minutes

New Zealand clear to touch and then sack the Lions maul. Then they win a turnover. Excellent play from the hosts. Brodie Retallick right at the heart of it.

8:52AM

Penalty, Beauden Barrett | New Zealand 3-0 Lions, 13 minutes

An easy strike. Despite murmurs that his kicking is a weakness, Barrett has been very good from the tee in his last few outings.

8:51AM

12 minutes

Sonny Bill Williams, Sam Cane and Brodie Retallick make ground around the fringes and the Lions are caught offside. Beauden Barrett will go for the posts for the first points of the series.

8:49AM

11 minutes

That’s the first glimpse of the Beauden Barret kick-pass…Anthony Watson does brilliantly to pull it in and call for the mark.

8:48AM

10 minutes

New Zealand work the blindside and eke out some room. They are up to the Lions 22.

8:48AM

All Blacks update

Very odd to see mistakes from Ben Smith.

8:46AM

8 minutes

The Lions are not afraid of moving the ball inside their own half here. Mako Vunipola pulls back a nice pass and the tourists almost have a chance after Ben Smith botches a Murray box-kick. 

However, Tadhg Furlong forces a pass and New Zealand snaffle it, hacking into touch.

8:44AM

7 minutes

Sonny Bill Williams has his first offload of the night but Liam Williams wins an excellent breakdown turnover as the All Blacks pour through. Owen Farrell clears long and New Zealand kick to touch.

8:43AM

6 minutes

The first scrum needs a re-set. There’s a bit of tension out there, understandably.

8:42AM

5 minutes

It’s frantic early on. The ball goes loose a couple of times and New Zealand will have the first scrum.

8:41AM

4 minutes

The Lions try to spoil New Zealand’s lineout put the All Blacks win it and Aaron Smith goes high. Daly takes under huge pressure from Kieran Read.

8:40AM

3 minutes

That’s frustrating. The Lions get offside at the lineout and New Zealand will be able to clear.

8:39AM

No try!

Daly was *just* in touch. Superb tackle from Israel Dagg.

8:39AM

2 minutes

Ben Te’o gets an early carry and Jonathan Davies flies through! He links up with Murray on the inside and Owen Farrell passes to Elliot Daly from the next ruck. Is the Englishman in?! We’re up to the TMO.

8:37AM

1 minute

Promising start for the Lions. New Zealand spill Murray’s kick and then Aaron Smith gives away  a soft penalty. Owen Farrell finds touch.

8:36AM

Kick-off

We’re underway! Referee Jaco Peyper blows his whistle and Beauden Barrett starts us off! It’s a long strike and Taulupe Faletau takes, carrying hard. Conor Murray goes high.

8:34AM

Haka

Replacement scrum-half TJ Perenara leads the Kapa o Pango.

TJ Perenara


Credit:
Sky Sports

8:33AM

5 minutes to go

8:32AM

Anthem

God Defend New Zealand rings out.

Anthem


Credit:
Sky Sports

8:29AM

New Zealand follow

Kieran Read


Credit:
Sky Sports

8:28AM

Players out

Here come the Lions, Peter O’Mahony leading them.

Peter O'Mahony


Credit:
Sky Sports

8:26AM

10 minutes to go

Here’s the shiny prize that goes on the line.

8:25AM

Thoughts of our man on the ground

We caught up with Mick Cleary, who’s at Eden Park.


Lions Bulletin: Pre Match 24th June


Lions Bulletin: Pre Match 24th June


25:00


8:25AM

Respect to start the series

These two have been jousting via media soundbites for the past month. Nice to see them shake hands.

Warren Gatland and Steve Hansen


Credit:
AFP

8:23AM

First blood to Peter O’Mahony

8:21AM

Excuse the swearing

But it feels necessary.

8:21AM

15 minutes to go

All those ‘who’s in your team’ articles over the past four years, all the #Welshbias claims on Twitter. They don’t matter now.

8:19AM

Scott Quinnell

Is on one. The former Wales number eight has just given a growling, almost hysterical pep talk to his Sky Sports cameraman….too late to get him on the bench instead of Sam Warburton?  

8:17AM

Words to strike dread into the heart of any journalist

“Wifi is down”

8:14AM

Flame wigs, Union Jack blazers

Quite the combo.

Lions fans


Credit:
PA 

8:13AM

Scrum, scrum, scrum

Live scrummaging is an important part of the warm-up for the Lions. Graham Rowntree needs his front row to hit the ground shoving.

Scrum


Credit:
Sky Sports

8:11AM

Absent friends

8:10AM

25 minutes to go

Just enough time for you to whizz through our pre-match player ratings.

8:08AM

“I’m a menace in Pete’s world”

Lovely interview with Sean O’Brien on Sky Sports. The Ireland openside says Peter O’Mahony has not escaped mickey-taking since winning the Lions captaincy.

8:08AM

Clues

That thumb will be tested. Then again, this is a 97-cap all-time great we are talking about.

8:05AM

This atmosphere is going to be special

8:03AM

Half an hour to go

Grab your coffees, make your breakfast. Not long now.

8:01AM

Taking no chances

8:00AM

“Yes he’s a freak”

Justin Marshall doing a bit of pre-match analysis on Sky Sports. Guess who he’s on about? 

Sonny Bill Williams, of course. The offload-flipping, multi-sport wonder-athlete.

7:57AM

Memories

Second Test, 2001 for me. Then a last-gasp loss the next week. Horrible.

7:56AM

Teams in

It is Aaron Cruden on the bench, rather than Lima Sopoaga. My detective work earlier was not so sharp after all.

7:54AM

Steve Hansen

“I’m not sure whether these are the best two teams in the world…but I am sure that there is a fierce rivalry and my players are excited. It’s like a World Cup”

Hansen does not do hyperbole, or even excitement. So these are pretty telling sentiments.

Steve Hansen


Credit:
Sky Sports

7:51AM

Pre-haka

That’s a band laying down the challenge. We’ve had a few hakas this trip.

Band


Credit:
PA

7:48AM

46th time unlucky?

That’s how the saying goes, right?

7:46AM

Rieko Ioane

Electric for the Blues, underwhelming for the Maori All Blacks. Which version of the 20 year-old will we get today? He looks fairly chilled out about it all.

Rieko


Credit:
AP

7:44AM

All Blacks arrival

That’s Lima Sopoaga first off the coach…does that mean he will be on the bench rather than Aaron Cruden?

 Also, that is a savage mullet on Liam Squire.

7:42AM

Peter O’Mahony

Peter O'Mahony


Credit:
 Sportsfile

7:40AM

One hour to go

7:37AM

Warren Gatland

“We’ve got to take opportunities. If that means throwing an offload, we’ve got to be bold enough to do that.

“We’ve been happy with the way we’ve been defending. It will be interesting to see what tactics the All Blacks come with.”

Warren Gatland


Credit:
Sky Sports

7:35AM

“They must begin to create doubt in the minds of the invincible All Blacks”

Will Greenwood


Credit:
Sky Sports

7:34AM

Where do you get one of these hats?

Asking for a friend…

Lions fans


Credit:
 Getty Images

7:31AM

Touch-down

7:30AM

Father Faletau

This is little Israel, son of Taulupe. The number eight has been magnificent on this tour.

7:29AM

“This is my day to show the world how amazing I am”

Adam Jones talks us through life as a Lion on Test match day. That quote is his impression of Mike Phillips, by the way. Great stuff.

Adam Jones


Credit:
Getty Images

7:24AM

Old foes

Remember these four going at it in 2001? What a series that was.

7:21AM

All Blacks run-down

It’s a pleasure to have Ben Coles on the Telegraph team as of this week. He’s taken a look at the New Zealand 23, player by player.

7:18AM

Meanwhile…

Away from Auckland, there is more rugby going on. Fiji have beaten Scotland, who turned over Australia last week, in Suva. Here are the scenes at the final whistle of a 27-22 win. Awesome.

7:11AM

More fan snaps

I can’t get enough of these. Superb get-up.

Lions fans


Credit:
 PA

7:10AM

Ominous statistic of the morning

7:09AM

Get your kicks

The tussle for territory is going to be vital. Conor Murray and Aaron Smith are box-kicking supremos – perhaps the best in the world. Beauden Barrett teases back three players out of position all the time, and Owen Farrell is not bad himself .

Watch Will Greenwood explain what is a pivotal area.


Lions and Kicking


Kicking Game


01:19


7:04AM

It’s real

There is even a programme.

7:02AM

Prediction time

I mean, there is a fair amount of hope-over-expectation going on here…

…I’m speaking for myself, at least. My shout is based on the fact that New Zealand are only going to get slicker as the series goes on. But have your say below as well, please. 

6:59AM

Analysis

Ben Te’o has only started one rugby union international before today.

But he is in excellent form and starts at inside centre, where he will be a spearhead for the Lions in defence and attack. We’ve taken a closer look at him.

Te'o

6:53AM

An open letter to the Lions

Sir Ian McGeechan addresses the Lions, here. ‘You are representing the greatest rugby team on earth’.

Geech

6:46AM

Head to head

There are compelling individual tussles across both 23s, but the headline act is sure the contest between fly-halves Beauden Barrett and Owen Farrell. Our man Mick Cleary takes a closer look in this piece.

Barrett Farrell

6:42AM

Spine-tingling

Not only are there going to be plenty of Lions fans in the stadium, there is also going to be a whole lot of noise. This is lovely.

6:42AM

Spine-tingling

Not only are there going to be plenty of Lions fans in the stadium, there is also going to be a whole lot of noise. This is lovely.

6:32AM

Brightening up?

A still Auckland evening, then…Graham Rowntree’s rain-dancing is not yet working.

6:30AM

All Blacks alumni

This man will be in the ground tonight. With New Zealand yet to decide on their replacement fly-half, could we see a sensational story? Given Carter’s form for Racing last season, some Lions fans might hope so.

6:27AM

Sea of pints

And this is what will keep them going. A good find from our very own Will Greenwood.

 Of course this was four hours ago. Most of them will be long gone.

6:23AM

Sea of red

Auckland is awash with Lions fans, we hear. They will have run out of face paint by Test three at this rate. 

Lions fans


Credit:
Getty Images

6:19AM

Two hours to go

Well, slightly longer than two hours. Are those storm clouds? Might it rain? The surface looks impeccable.

6:15AM

Welcome

Here we go, then. After four years of selection speculation, picking prospective squads and wondering whether the British and Irish Lions will be able to overturn the back-to-back world champions, the Test series starts in Auckland.

New Zealand are confident. Captain Kieran Read has said that he absolutely expects to win. Who can blame him? Since the start of Rugby World Cup 2011, the All Blacks have won 70 of 76 fixtures. They have only lost four times.

At today’s venue, Eden Park, their record is even more staggering. They have not been defeated there for 23 years. 

Steve Hansen has made a few changes from the side that destroyed Samoa 78-0. Captain Read returns with Ardie Savea dropping to the bench., Anton Lienert-Brown also joins the replacements. Ryan Crotty comes back in for him, meaning Sonny Bill Williams keeps the 12 shirt.

But the big surprise sees Rieko Ioane usurp Julian Savea on the left wing. Ioane is just 20 and makes his maiden Test start. But the Lions know his worth from an electric try-scoring performance for the Blues earlier this tour.

New Zealand
15. Ben Smith, 14. Israel Dagg, 13. Ryan Crotty, 12. Sonny Bill Williams, 11. Rieko Ioane, 10. Beauden Barrett, 9. Aaron Smith; 1. Joe Moody, 2. Codie Taylor, 3. Owen Franks, 4. Brodie Retallick, 5. Sam Whitelock, 6. Jerome Kaino, 7. Sam Cane, 8. Kieran Read (captain).
Replacements: 16. Nathan Harris, 17. Wyatt Crockett, 18. Charlie Faumuina, 19. Scott Barrett, 20. Ardie Savea, 21. TJ Perenara, 22. Aaron Cruden/Lima Sopoaga, 23. Anton Lienert-Brown.

Warren Gatland unfurled a couple of eyebrow-raising calls of his own.  Besides Peter O’Mahony captaining from blindside flanker, England wing Elliot Daly and Wales full-back Liam Williams have ransacked the squad.

Elsewhere, the experience of Alun Wyn Jones is preferred to the exuberence of Maro Itoje. Will this blend be enough to cause an upset? It is going to be fascinating to find out.

Lions
15. Liam Williams, 14. Anthony Watson, 13. Jonathan Davies, 12. Ben Te’o, 11. Elliot Daly, 10. Owen Farrell, 9. Conor Murray; 1. Mako Vunipola, 2. Jamie George, 3. Tahg Furlong, 4. Alun Wyn Jones, 5. George Kruis, 6. Peter O’Mahony (captain), 7. Sean O’Brien, 8. Taulupe Faletau. 
Replacements: 16. Ken Owens, 17. Jack McGrath, 18. Kyle Sinckler, 19. Maro Itoje, 20. Sam Warburton, 21. Rhys Webb, 22. Jonathan Sexton, 23. Leigh Halfpenny.

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