Well that was pretty disappointing all round really! The conditions inside the Jade Stadium last night were never going to be conducive to see some good running rugby from either side. However, it was the All Blacks who played to the conditions controlling possession of the ball and stifling the Lions game plan.
From the very first whistle, the Lions had lost the game. The All Blacks came out of the blocks quickly with a ferocious assault on their visitors and inside a minute had upended the Lions captain Brian O’Driscoll resulting in a dislocated shoulder that ended his game and will keep him out of the rest of the series.
It didn’t get much better for the Lions after that with a multitude of basic errors dictating the game. The Lions lineout, which should have been the mainstay of the side, was very sorry for itself with Shane Byrne’s sense of direction deserting him virtually every time he picked up the ball.
The jumpers in the middle didn’t do much to help out the hapless Byrne either, Ben Kay proved himself to be a shadow of the player he was a few years ago and Paul O’Connell was not his usual bustling self. The combined lacklustre effort resulted in a lineout ball that was stolen by the All Blacks almost every time we threw in and crucially for the first try by Ali Williams. Byrne’s poor throw landed straight in the bread basket of the surprised Williams who galloped through a non existent defence to score easily just before the break.
It didn’t get much better for the Lions after the break and to add to the woes at lineout time, the scrum was being wheeled all over the place as the much vaunted Lions front five were shoved around all night.
Seven minutes into the second half the All Blacks dealt the killer blow to the Lions, with Tana Umaga sending a massive cut out pass straight into the arms of Sitiveni Sivivatu who stepped the Lions defence and raced in to score, securing the match.
There was no great response from the Lions with heads dropping all over the park. The lack of leadership within the team stood out like a beacon with O’Driscoll off the field and Dallaglio injured earlier in the tour. It was only in the very late stages of the game that any of the Lions rallied to try to conjure anything remotely like a score.
The leaders left within the squad all need to stand up and be counted now. O’Connell, Corry, Back and Michael Owen are all capable leaders of the pack and it is they who need to steer this ship back on track starting on Tuesday at Manawatu.