Depending on who you speak to this was either a fantastic spectacle of rugby or it was an absolute shambles. For my part I fall into the former category, I thoroughly enjoyed my evening at Eden Park and I was entertained from the word go.
The skill levels on offer were not quite on a par with that served up by the All Blacks last Saturday night, but the game was a good contest between two competitive sides. The Lions could quite easily have not turned up for this match following the loss of the series effectively ending the tour on Saturday, but those on the field today however obviously had a point to prove.
The Lions inability to find touch kicking out of hand and Auckland’s propensity to run absolutely everything back at the visitors ensured that we saw a very competitive Barbarians style of game that we haven’t witnessed for quite a while.
The game had a dash of everything from fighting, with Ben Kay taking the brunt of Sam Tuitupou’s ridiculous series of punches to dazzling brilliance at the hands of the often overlooked Mark Cueto.
The only negative point of the night for me came once again courtesy of a shocking display of refereeing from the disastrous Steve Walsh. I am beginning to sound like a bit of a stuck record about the performances of the officials on this tour so I won‘t drone on about it, but Walsh has yet again proved why he should never take charge of a serious rugby match ever again.
Auckland put up a very strong test for the Lions and it is important to say that they are the strongest of the provincial teams faced on this tour of New Zealand. They showed their class throughout the game and it was impressive to see some of their dynamic runners cut loose against the Lions defence.
The buzz from the home fans around the ground when the out of form Rokocoko got into his stride was electric. Even their snubbing of a couple of early penalty chances to attempt a series of set piece moves showed their ambition to take the game to the Lions out wide. Had it not been for some poor handling at the vital moments, the men in blue and white may well have cut free and racked up a huge score.
It will be interesting to see what happens this week as the Lions build up to the final test. It was obvious from the reactions of the players after the final whistle last night that they do not expect to take to the field again on this tour. The Lions applauded the fans on a lap of honour round the ground and the crowd showed their appreciation for the unbeaten midweek team. If any players are drafted in to the test side on the back of their performance on this game then it is clear they will not let the side down.